Helping the Diabetes Community in Ukraine – 6/1 Update

This resource was created through the JDRF – Beyond Type 1 Alliance.

Please note: this page will be updated as communications and news from Ukraine become available.

June 1 Update

Key summary:

  • Supply into and within Ukraine is seriously constrained by continuously shifting conflict zones, damage to infrastructure and potential shortages of power and fuel.
  • Humanitarian channels continue to remain the predominant way to access insulin and T1D supplies in the region.
  • We recommend supporting humanitarian organizations like Direct Relief, Project HOPE and the International Committee of the Red Cross to assist the 120,000 people living with T1D in Ukraine.

Attacks on health care (including those against health facilities, transport, personnel, patients, supplies and warehouses) continue. Between 24 February and 25 May, there have been 256 attacks reported, resulting in 59 reported injuries and 75 reported deaths. These attacks deprive people of urgently needed care, endanger health-care providers, and undermine health systems.

Conflict and insecurity continue to disrupt supply chains, aggravate food insecurity and malnutrition across the country. In eastern Ukraine, there have been reports of food shortages in Kramatorsk (Donetsk oblast) as supplies were mostly coming from Kharkiv.

According to government data compiled by the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), over 6.6 million refugees have left Ukraine for surrounding countries between 24 February and 24 May, with the highest proportion, 53%, in Poland, followed by 5% in Romania. According to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), as of 3 May approximately eight million people have been internally displaced, which represents 18% of Ukraine’s population. As the crisis evolves, displacement and mobility patterns continue to change, requiring scaled-up and integrated response interventions that address both emerging and existing needs.

Commendable efforts by bordering countries to support Ukrainian refugees are already taking a toll on local infrastructure and communities. In countries such as Moldova, essential supplies (e.g., insulin) are becoming scarce or incredibly costly. Even in Poland, health facilities are struggling to meet an influx of communicable, chronic, and advanced health conditions. All bordering countries are struggling to find enough licensed professionals to provide essential mental health and psychosocial services. Meanwhile, the arrival of highly vulnerable populations—especially women, children, and unaccompanied minors from Ukraine —poses severe protection risks, particularly for human trafficking and gender-based violence.

The situation is even more challenging for those who remain in Ukraine. As hostilities increase, access to basic human needs is becoming more and more difficult. Most population centers have experienced damage to infrastructure—from roads and bridges to hospitals and utility works. Obstruction to the supply chain has left many without secure access to food, water, medicine and other essentials. Concerningly, an update provided by Iryna Vlasenko, Vice President of IDF based in Ukraine, notes that currently humanitarian aid and insulin supplies are unable to access Russian occupied territories. 

Insulin and Diabetes Supplies:

Since February 24, Direct Relief has provided medical aid weighing more than 1.2 million pounds, or 600 tons in weight, with more on the way. Over the past week, cancer therapies, insulin, antibiotics, IV fluids to support dialysis care, surgical supplies and more departed Direct Relief’s warehouse for health providers in Ukraine. The organization has also provided more than $12 million in financial support.

Project HOPE’s current programming spans provision of pharmaceuticals, consumables, medical equipment, and technical support to health facilities treating conflict-affected populations, facilitation of mental health and psychosocial services  and protection services, and procurement and distribution of essential supplies, including non-food item and hygiene kits.

In Ukraine, Project HOPE’s activities include Importing over 100 pallets of medicine and medical supplies, including insulin, needles, hygiene kits, and more, into Lviv for onward distribution westward to hospitals in need.

Insulin for Life and the Spare a Rose Campaign along with Type One Style also continue to provide smaller, faster shipments of T1D essentials into the conflict regions. 

The ICRC is scaling up in 10 different locations in Ukraine, including Kyiv, Poltava, Dnipro, Odessa, to address the rapidly evolving situation. Trucks are moving across the country to provide medical supplies and other assistance whilst other convoys with essential aid will arrive in the coming days.

The World Health Organization Health Emergency Programme has been coordinating the health response, together with the other Health Cluster agencies, including UNHCR. Regarding diabetes, efforts have focused on mapping existing resources including the capacity of healthcare centers, identifying individuals with diabetes who need care, and sourcing and supplying medications, including insulin, to facilities that they can access. The WHO regularly posts updated situation reports on the emergency response in the Ukraine that can be found here.

To facilitate Solidarity across the IDF Europe Member Associations’ network, IDF Europe has launched Connect Solidarity. This programme aims to facilitate support from IDF Europe Member Associations across Europe wishing to help other national diabetes associations in Ukraine’s neighbouring countries provide advice, medicines, supplies, to Ukrainian refugees etc.

Patient Resources:

The Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition has prepared Insulin Switching Guides to aid with the crisis response.

April 11 Update

We continue to recommend supporting Direct Relief to assist the 120,000 people living with T1D in Ukraine.  

As the crisis in Ukraine extends into a third month, the situation on the ground continues to evolve rapidly. There are now over 4 million refugees and 7 million internally displaced Ukrainians in the region. 

To date, over 18 million people have been affected by the conflict, with reports of war crimes and heavy civilian casualties emerging from the ongoing war. The aid response on the ground is now extending into full fledged humanitarian crisis support. The World Food Programme reports significant concerns about the potential worsening of the nutritional status among vulnerable populations.

Insulin and Diabetes Supplies:

Insulin and supplies continue to flow into Ukraine through various humanitarian channels. The Ministry of Health of Ukraine is publishing information around which pharmacies are stocking insulin through a website. The Ministry has also created a priority list of medicines, medical goods and consumables that healthcare institutions primarily need. Another site called Medicine Warriors is using public records from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, and provides people living with diabetes in Ukraine with accurate, updated, and user-friendly information about the location of pharmacies where insulin is currently available.

More than two tons of insulin also arrived in Ukraine at the start of April. The diabetes meds were shipped from Direct Relief’s distribution center in Europe in special cold-chain containers with monitoring equipment inside. All items were provided at the request of, and approved by, Ukraine’s Ministry of Health and other on-the-ground healthcare providers. Direct Relief has also expanded support to other emerging war fronts. Essential meds & health care supplies were received by Association Internationale de Cooperation Medicale (AICM) in eastern Ukraine.

Shipments of medical aid from Direct Relief have also arrived in Moldova’s capital city Chișinău on 7 April, infusing support for the country that shares a border with Ukraine and has absorbed more refugees per capita than almost any country in Europe. 

Project HOPE ​​has partnered with a non-governmental organization in Ukraine to purchase and transport pharmaceuticals and medical supplies across the country. In April, they transported 100 pallets of pharmaceuticals and supplies, including insulin, needles, sutures, and gauzes into Lviv for onward distribution westward. Project HOPE has also assisted the Moldova Ministry of Health with mobilising insulin. In Poland they are supporting the University Children’s Hospital in Krakow, including the provision of medical supplies for a Ukrainian children’s ward and psychosocial support.

Insulin for Life and the Spare a Rose Campaign along with Type One Style also continue to provide smaller, faster shipments of T1D essentials into the conflict regions. 

The International Red Cross is massively scaling up its response to meet the urgent needs in Ukraine. Over 700 tons of medical supplies, food and relief items have arrived since the escalation of the crisis, with more arriving in country daily.

The World Health Organization is also providing support on the ground. As of 6 April WHO has delivered to Ukraine approximately 208 metric tons of medical supplies, comprising trauma and emergency care commodities. The WHO is also providing detailed weekly updates on the situation on the ground. 

Patient Resources:

The Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition has prepared Insulin Switching Guides to aid with the crisis response.

March 14 Update

The JDRF – Beyond Type 1 Alliance continues to recommend primarily supporting Direct Relief to assist the 120,000 people living with T1D in Ukraine. They are shipping bulk donations of insulin and other diabetes supplies (about a week’s supplies for the entire country), have local connections with Ministry of Health of Ukraine and Ukraine Diabetes Federation, have the logistics footprint for distribution within Ukraine and are large and experienced enough to handle the scale of the challenge. We note that the New York Times feels the same way. Other major distribution chains are also opening up: International Red Cross is shipping similar quantities of insulin into Odesa and Dnipro, and Project HOPE is soon to establish cold chain distribution of another bulk source of insulin into Ukraine.

Unfortunately we are also beginning to hear of hunger and food shortages emerging as challenges for the T1D community. We are still evaluating the best ways to respond, but would feel little regret supporting an organization like the International Red Cross which is already on the ground and providing vulnerable families with both food and insulin.

Finally we’d recommend directing some support to the relief of T1Ds seeking refuge and living in Moldova, where we are hearing reports of insulin and strips running out – in part because they have generously given of their own supply to refugees entering their country as well as to displaced persons in western Ukraine. Smaller, more nimble organizations like Insulin For Life supported through the Spare a Rose Campaign are likely to be the best way of supporting these communities

What Is the Current Situation?

The situation on the ground remains volatile, with the only constants being lives at risk and uncertainty about what comes next. In that context, there is an additional layer of danger for the ~120,000 people with type 1 diabetes and a similar number of those with type 2 who depend on insulin.

For these brave Ukrainians, access to life-saving insulin, diabetes supplies and medical advice is being interrupted. Stocks of essential supplies on-hand vary markedly from city to city, and are as low as 2-3 days in some oblasts (administrative regions). Further, unstable electrical supply means the pharmacy systems frequently go down, forcing them to close until older paper-based methods can be revived.

Those men who are aged 18-60 are nonetheless remaining behind to fight, even if their diabetes places them at greater risk. But many of the estimated 15,000 children with type 1 and their families are moving to the relative safety of the western regions of the country and sometimes over the borders in hopes of escaping the conflict. Those who make it to Hungary, Moldova, Poland, or Romania are being received with wonderful generosity – we have heard stories ranging from governments making it possible to pick up insulin free without a script to individuals emptying their cupboards of insulin for those whose need is urgent.

How Can I Help Right Now?

People with diabetes in Ukraine will need help, whether they are remaining behind, traveling to safer areas within the country, or crossing the borders.

Beyond Type 1 and JDRF International have been working with those in Ukraine as well as other global organizations, such as the International Diabetes Federation (IDF) and World Health Organization (WHO), to better understand how our community can help. Our answer to this question will change as the situation evolves, so check back frequently.

Right now, one of the best ways to support people inside Ukraine appears to be a collaboration between the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Direct Relief (a large-scale humanitarian agency), and the International Diabetes Federation. They are working closely together to understand where supplies are short, secure donations within Europe, and open up ‘green corridors’ within Ukraine to deliver them quickly to where they’re needed.

They have asked those who wish to help to donate to Direct Relief and direct your donation to “Ukraine Crisis.”

For those who wish to support refugees outside Ukraine, the good news is that great foundational work is already being done by European governments and health ministries as well agencies like the UNHCR. But diabetes groups across Europe are also coordinating through the IDF to identify any remaining gaps and enable both local collection and centralized distribution of supplies to the areas of greatest need. If you’re based in Europe, you can contact your national diabetes group and ask how you can help with this program.

If you know people in Ukraine, we have two resources that may be helpful:

Note: we are not aware of any other initiatives that combine local knowledge with the same capacity for scale, speed and distribution. We continue to conduct due diligence on other programs and will update our advice as appropriate.

What Should I Do Right Now?

Please do not attempt to ship supplies or insulin directly into Ukraine, as most normal shipping avenues have been blocked or restricted. All air travel in and out of Ukraine has been suspended due to military activity. The Ukrainian government is doing what it can to assist humanitarian supply convoys at the borders, but it is difficult with multiple checkpoints and military activity preventing shipments from arriving. The last thing we all want is for insulin and supplies to be thrown away because they were not delivered in the right way.

We recognize that you may see individuals or organizations on social media asking for insulin or supplies to ship into Ukraine or into surrounding countries where refugees may go. While it is heartbreaking to see these requests, the best way to help these individuals at this time is to provide them with internal country resources to connect them with the closest medical clinic to get what they need.

According to the Ministry of Health of Ukraine: “All healthcare institutions continue providing medical care under martial law.” Individuals in Ukraine can call the ministry’s hotline at 0 800 50 52 01 to determine the closest open medical clinic.

Diabetes-Specific Financial Donations

Direct Relief

Direct Relief is actively working to bring needed medical supplies into the country, with a large shipment of diabetes supplies arriving before the invasion by Russia. However, in a recent statement: “Insulin and other cold chain medications are expected to be in short supply…”

The International Diabetes Federation

The International Diabetes Federation asks those who wish to help people with diabetes in Ukraine to donate to Direct Relief and direct your donation when requesting to “Ukraine Crisis.”

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC)

International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is currently helping Ukrainian medical clinics with needed equipment and supplies while simultaneously providing food and hygiene items to families. Their long-term experience in Ukraine and extensive footprint there give them an advantage in distributing supplies over the “last mile”. They are now very much neck and neck with Direct Relief as a great way to help people on the ground living with T1D.

General Medical Assistance Financial Donations 

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is mobilizing in the surrounding countries to assist those crossing borders with emergency medical response camps. They are also attempting to help transport needed medical supplies across the border into Ukraine. Click here to learn more about their activities to help those within the country and those attempting to leave.

Refugee Assistance Financial Donations 

UNHCR/The UN Refugee Agency

UNHCR/The UN Refugee Agency is not just monitoring and providing data but actively assisting those who need immediate assistance. As of March 1, over 660,000 refugees have left Ukraine, with more expected as the conflict continues, with detailed information regarding each refugee-accepting country bordering Ukraine here.

However, many others remain inside the country, unable to leave. UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo stated: “UNHCR is also ramping up its response in Ukraine to help displaced and conflict-affected people. But the volatile situation, security concerns, lack of safe access for humanitarian workers and movement restrictions are posing major challenges for aid workers, including UNHCR staff.”

Diabetes Supply Donations

Insulin For Life USA

Insulin For Life USA will accept several diabetes supplies and distribute them in several areas.

What Else Can I Do?

There are many who will feel deeply moved by the situation in Ukraine and wish we could do something more, or make a more personal contribution. If you wish to have an impact on the lives of people living with diabetes, we strongly believe the advice we gave above is the best available at this time.

However, if like us you are still left wanting to do more, we’d urge you to consider three things. First, reach out and offer your sympathy and support to those on the ground. This might seem a mere gesture, but we are told by those in Ukraine that there is a world of difference between fighting a desperate fight alone, and fighting it with the global community at your back.