On the Ground in Moldova: Doctors and Nurses of IsraAID’s Medical Team Share Their Experiences
As of early May, Airlink has provided flights for 270 skilled personnel to travel to Ukraine, Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and Moldova on behalf of 20 nonprofit partners providing humanitarian assistance to populations affected by the war.
One of the largest passenger groups supported to date is the IsraAID team. A longstanding Airlink partner, IsraAID is the largest humanitarian aid organization in Israel and is at the forefront of responding to major humanitarian crises worldwide having worked in more than 50 countries with 300 staff members around the world.
Less than 24 hours after Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24th, Airlink quickly helped dispatch their Emergency Response team, many of whom are trained medical personnel, to Moldova to provide urgent support to the thousands of Ukrainian refugees crossing into the country. Health care is currently one of the most needed humanitarian assistance activities to support refugees fleeing Ukraine and those who remain in the country.
Your donations to Airlink, in addition to miles donations from United Airlines, have made flights possible for 44 IsraAID staff members and volunteers, resulting in over $20,000 saved in transportation costs. This financial assistance enables IsraAID to direct more funds to their programs on the ground where increased spending is needed the most.
Below, we are proud to spotlight four members of the group. Two doctors and two nurses share their personal experiences with us from on the ground in Moldova and describe what humanitarian aid work means to them.
“I arrived in Moldova on March 10th, expecting to work specifically as a registered nurse, but the reality exceeded my expectations. I am a nurse, a social worker, and a logistician. I am working with an amazing team and switching non-stop between Russian, English, and Hebrew. In short, I have an incredible job, and I am privileged to be able to make a difference on the front line.
I provide mental health first aid for refugees at the Palanca border crossing. I see a never-ending line of buses arriving from Ukraine, not knowing where to go next, what to expect, or even what to ask for. I listen, I hug, I talk, and I support a team of volunteers that are working with Ukrainian children in an IsraAID safe space located in a tent on the border.
In a small medical clinic near the border, once a week I take the role of ‘village nurse.’ I meet with refugees that are currently living in the area to check patients dealing with diabetes, high blood pressure, running noses, anxiety, and often stress and painful stories. And then, after I close my clinic, I give English lessons to two boys from Odessa.
In more recent weeks, I have been delivering humanitarian aid and essential supplies to families around the Stefan Voda area. Every day we put 2500kg of food and hygiene products on our truck, and drive around villages in the region, distributing bags of relief items to refugees and their hosting families. During these trips, I have met over 500 refugees, mostly mothers, children, and the elderly. I received many hugs and blessings. And again, I listen to stories. I discuss their situations with the villages’ social workers, trying to understand how else we can assist them.”
Netta Lev is a nurse, based in Holon, Israel. She is currently on her second stint with IsraAID at the Tulcea Humanitarian Logistics Hub in Romania, which supplies urgent medical and food aid directly to southern Ukraine. In March, she was part of IsraAID’s Mobile Medical Clinic in Moldova.
“I’m here to help Ukrainians get the medication they need and help bring people together for a common cause. At this hub, we move medicine and other humanitarian aid. My focus is on medical supplies. Since I’m a native Russian speaker and I have contacts in Ukraine, I was able to help build and expand a network on the ground so we know who we are shipping to, what their real needs are, and can cross-check and verify that information. This way we can maximize our impact and ensure we are speaking directly to affected communities. I also serve as a cultural and linguistic translator between the different teams of partners working together at the hub.
My proudest moment was our first medical shipment to a pediatric hospital in Odessa. We contacted the doctor there, received the list of needed supplies, verified the individual and information, and went about procuring it. We counted stuff late into the night with very little time until the trucks were meant to depart, but we made it and we received confirmation that it arrived in Odessa.”
Dr. Victoria Abolsky
Victoria, born in Argentina, is a doctor with a passion for humanitarian assistance and community health.
“As part of my master’s degree in Disaster Management at Tel Aviv University, I’ve been interning with IsraAID for the last six months in the Health Sector.
When the fighting broke out and thousands of people from Ukraine began moving west and crossing borders, we knew we needed to take action. We rapidly established relationships with local health authorities, assessed the health needs of refugees, and began running mobile clinics to whoever needed our services. We worked side by side with local doctors and nurses, made ourselves present in the UN’s health working group, and provided medical care at the main entry point to Moldova, as well as its district of over 62,000 residents which was housing around 1,500 refugees.
It felt as though all the humanitarian aid providers were working as one big team with a common goal: to improve the well-being and preserve the dignity of people.
Quickly, the refugee and host community gave us a warm welcome, and day after day, shared their gratitude with us and thanked us for being present. After fleeing their homes and their loved ones, leaving everything behind, the needs of the Ukrainians were met with kindness and professionalism. They felt heard.
After two incredible weeks working in Moldova, I look back with admiration and respect to all the aid providers and volunteers that come together when duty calls. I am still in awe of the resilience of the Ukrainian people and the solidarity of the Moldovans. Being in the field proves, once again, to be crucial to ensure a comprehensive and well-executed response to any ongoing crisis.”
Dr. Yan Sardtse
Dr. Yan Sardtse is a psychologist with a Master’s degree in Clinical Child Psychology, specializing in Educational Psychology in Sha’ar Hanegev, Israel. Now a Fellow Lecturer at the Hebrew University and Founding Director of the Sha’ar Hanegev Research and Development Green House, Sardtse was born and raised in Crimea until the age of seven.
From the first day of fighting, before leaving to join the IsraAID team in Moldova, Yan was active in a group of Russian-speaking Israeli professionals who set up a hotline for psychosocial assistance for Ukrainians.
In the past month, Yan has served as a member of IsraAID’s emergency response team in Moldova, assisting Ukrainian refugees. During his month with IsraAID, he served as MHPSS (Mental Health & Psychosocial Support) and Protection Specialist. His role involved training local teams of experts in the refugee assistance process, with an emphasis on psychosocial support and protection for children, adolescents, and women. He also established Child Friendly Spaces in refugee centers and trained local volunteers that operate them.
During his time with IsraAID, new working relationships were established and grown. Since his return to Israel, Yan has continued to provide remote academic research support in the process of identifying the psycho-educational needs of the refugees in Moldova, and provides remote assistance to the educational staff of a Ukrainian school that teaches online. When the fighting ends, Yan is certain he will be a part of the rehabilitation process for those affected by the crisis.
IsraAID is continuing to deliver and distribute humanitarian relief from Romania to Ukraien, and provide support for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. Support our work today. Donate now.