issue Spring 2023

Blue/Yellow USA: Non-Lethal Aid Crucial for Ukraine's Survival

By John Prunskis, MD, FIPP

Between 2014 and February 24, 2022, the war in Ukraine was localized; civilian and military assistance requirements were met by the government, civil society and Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs). With the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasive war posing an existential threat to Ukraine’s sovereignty, a diverse people were united into an unprecedented civil movement. The flexible capabilities of civil society groups and NGOs were able to refocus and adapt quickly and effectively to Ukraine’s new environment and its requirements.

NGOs procure humanitarian and non-lethal military aid, including extensive medical assistance. One of the major NGOs, Blue/Yellow — consisting of Blue/Yellow USA and Blue/Yellow for Ukraine Lithuania — has been on the ground in Ukraine since 2014, providing Ukrainian civilians and defense forces with necessary vital aid.

Included in the Forbes top ten organizations worldwide working in Ukraine, Blue/Yellow helps on several levels: procurement/distribution of aid, financial support and advocacy, forming an integral part of the civil society aid effort. It has a proven track record due to its ability to be flexible, agile, react rapidly and find innovative solutions to problems. As a result of this record, Blue/Yellow was asked to testify at a congressional U.S. Helsinki Commission hearing on the crowdsourcing victory in Ukraine in December 2022 of last year and has been recognized by both Lithuania and Ukraine for its work.

“The destruction of medical infrastructure coupled with the constant bombing and shelling of civilian targets have complicated procurement, disrupted supply chains and impeded logistics.”

While the medical care system in Ukraine continues to be resilient, the war severely impacts the provision of and access to care. The destruction of medical infrastructure coupled with the constant bombing and shelling of civilian targets have complicated procurement, disrupted supply chains and impeded logistics. The World Health Organization recorded 716 attacks on hospitals and other facilities in Ukraine between February and November 2022, with 144 facilities completely destroyed by Russian strikes.

Care is also complicated by the fact that injuries are different in type and number from other wars; for example, exploding single IEDs have been replaced by artillery and rocket barrages, while there is a shortage of basic supplies required for patient care. Hospitals which were functioning at a very high level prior to the war are seeing the supplies needed for performing surgery, among other things, become more and more difficult to procure. Ukrainian medical personnel and medics were not prepared for the need for such extensive combat casualty care for both civilians and military.

NGOs like Blue/Yellow provide everything from tactical medicine Individual First Aid Kits (IFAK) to armored ambulances. Blue/Yellow also works with governments, local and international NGOs, and medical teams to get specified training, medical equipment and personnel into Ukraine to transport severely injured patients to more advanced care centers within, or hospitals outside Ukraine, and to provide anything else needed. A complete list of necessary medical equipment and items is available at foblueyellowukraineusa.org.

All this aid and assistance is either acquired using donations or donated directly, and such support will be imperative going forward for the duration of the war and during the reconstruction period.

John Prunskis, MD, FIPP, is an assistant professor with Chicago Medical School and medical director of the longest established multisite interventional pain practice in the Chicago area, the Illinois Pain & Spine Institute. He has been honored 15 times by Castle Connolly’s Top Doctors Awards in the category of Pain Medicine. He advised two presidential administrations on issues pertaining to health care, precise diagnosis and treatment of painful conditions, and the opioid crisis. As a White House Presidential Advisor, he was asked to coauthor the national guidelines on how pain should be diagnosed and treated as published in the HHS Best Practices Pain Task Force final report. He continues to advise multiple U.S. governors and others on these issues.

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