Refugee Children Help Get Out the Message: Hygiene is Critical

March 18, 2022

Refugee Children Help Get Out the Message: Hygiene is Critical

This Purim, like the biblical Queen Esther and Mordechai who saved their people, Ukrainian refugee children in Poland are trying to help save the lives of their fellow refugees.

The fleeing Ukrainians travel for days, often on dirty trains with limited sanitary facilities, before they finally reach safety in Poland.They arrive at the refugee center, a converted shopping mall in Przemyśl, Poland, still wearing the soiled clothes they had on when they left home. Their biggest concern has been escaping the war, but now the lack of adequate hygiene is taking its toll, causing disease and infections.

Doctors and nurses from the Hadassah Medical Organization in Jerusalem, who volunteered to fly to Poland to help, have been on hand for over a week now, taking care of the thousands of refugeesthat arrive daily.

Dr. Meir Cherniak, senior physician in internal medicine and clinical microbiology and infectious diseases, and nurse Dana Ben-Bassatwere alarmed when they saw the terrible hygienic conditions. Many of the patients they are treating at the refugee center have problems that are related to lack of basic hygiene. These include stomach ailments, infected cuts and infectious diseases.

When Dr. Cherniak realized the root cause of these problems, he drew up a list of basic hygienic measures and put them on a posterthat could be placed in strategic places near the entrance to the refugee center and near the kitchen. The posters, in Ukrainian and in Russian, promote personal hygiene and also point out where free first aid is available. They proudly bear the logos of Hadassah and our partners, The Polish Red Cross and NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief.

Realizing that this information needed to be made highly visible and not lost among all the other posters on the wall, Nurse Ben-Bassatdecided to involve the refugee children who make use of the improvised kindergarten/playground, located next to the first aidstation. She and Dr. Cherniak provided the children with crayons and markers and asked them to decorate the posters.

The children were very happy to be part of the project. They feel that they are helping to save the lives of their fellow refugees. When they were asked how the posters should be decorated, they immediately answered, “in yellow and blue, the colors of Ukraine.”

This Purim we can celebrate our brave little Ukrainian “Queen Esthers and Mordechais.”

The Hadassah Medical Organization (HMO) humanitarian mission in Poland has been co-coordinated between the HMO doctors on the ground and Hadassah International (HI). In an ongoing effort to build strategic partnerships, a coalition has been built between HMO and the Polish Red Cross, the World Health Organization, NATAN Worldwide Disaster Relief and the Polish health authorities. Hadassah’s (HWZOA) Ukraine Emergency Response campaign, kicked off in the beginning of the crisis, has successfully raised funds from donors across the US for HMO’s outreach to the Ukrainian refugees in Poland, as well as to provide care for those seeking refuge in Israel, both at Hadassah’s hospitals and our Hadassah Youth Villages.

HI has engaged Polish foundations and individuals in financially supporting HMO’s humanitarian mission. The HI team has assisted the doctors in organizing the logistics and administration of this medical operation—including transporting the HMO doctors during the mission and making sure that they have the necessary medical supplies. They also converse with the refugees that come to the HMO doctors for medical care, provide emotional support, and record their stories, while the HMO medical experts take care of their medical needs.

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