A British business start-up is redirecting its entrepreneurial skills to find novel ways to overcome challenges to getting vital medical aid into Ukraine.
Started only 10 weeks ago, the not-for-profit United with Ukraine has already delivered more than £1,300,000 worth of medical supplies into the war-torn country.
United with Ukraine was started by 25-year-old Charlie Cawsey, the founder of Type One Style, a producer of patches for diabetics. It has been using a combination of supplier contacts and in-country volunteer transport networks to source, ship and deliver desperately needed supplies where they are needed most.
"When I first heard of Ukrainians with diabetes unable to access life-saving equipment, I launched a campaign through Type One Style’s Instagram account, asking diabetics across the world to send supplies. Within 48 hours we had an unprecedented response", said Charlie Cawsey.
Instead of relying on pre-existing distribution channels that have been left largely unusable due to Russian attacks, Cawsey reached out to volunteers in the Ukraine, Poland, the UK and France. He established a grass-roots volunteer system, with those on the ground using their own cars, trucks and even buses to deliver aid.
"We are managing to reach recipients that no other channel could, because we built our own distribution channel", said Cawsey.
Following their initial success, United with Ukraine has been working with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health to identify other medical equipment priorities. Thousands of trauma and emergency kits have already been received by the Sumy Regional Military Administration, and desperately needed diabetic supplies have arrived in Odessa.
Rather than send huge pallets of equipment, shipments are broken down to regular size packages by a network of volunteers in Kent, and sent directly to the Ukrainian volunteers, who then distribute them. Additionally, an urgent appeal has just been received for portable life-support incubators for premature babies.
United with Ukraine is in daily contact with medical staff and volunteers throughout Ukraine, and can assist news networks with on the ground information and interviews.
Marina Yankiv is a 27-year-old pharmacist and nutritionist responsible for the treatment of 600 child diabetics in the Odessa region. A diabetic herself, she received her first shipment of glucometers and blood testing kits from United with Ukraine on March 31st.
"We have two wars going on in Ukraine. One with the Russians, the other with diabetes", said the single mother of a 5-year-old son.
"There are two million diabetics in Ukraine, and we are all are desperate for insulin and other supplies. It is difficult, but I cannot open my heart. I am a medical worker, I must help children. And to do this I must keep my emotions under control.
"The parents are frightened, the children are frightened, they cry. But I do my best to make them smile. I must do what I can."
Marina said she was aware that some volunteers distributing aid had been kidnapped and killed. but she refuses to be afraid. "The Russians need medical supplies themselves - so they take them. But my people will die if I don't continue to work."
Last week an Instagram post displaying her telephone number and saying she could source insulin went viral. She received hundreds of calls daily from throughout the country. "What could I do,", she said. "I still need supplies for the children."