Around 660,000 refugees left Ukraine after the Russian invasion on February 24, and another 1 million were internally displaced, around 4% of the total population, according to the UNHCR.
Data from border control agencies showed that just over 57% of Ukrainian residents have traveled to Poland. The Polish towns of Rzeszow and Lublin have seen the biggest influx, according to research by Direct Relief’s research and analysis team, which focused on understanding where people are likely to go and the resources they will need most once they arrive.
Looking at a combination of Facebook’s Data For Good social connectedness index, which measures the strength of friendships and connects them geographically, and phone mobility data from Meta, Schroeder and his team at Direct Relief, in collaboration with Harvard University on a platform called CrisisReady, were able to better understand where refugees are likely to go. All participants in Meta’s initiative have opted in to the program, which anonymizes data.
“If you’re from Ukraine, where are you most likely to be connected, in terms of Facebook friends? Does it have a particular pattern? Turns out it really does” , said Andrew Schroeder, vice president of research and analysis. “We can fill in things that you can’t find out by looking at the Border Patrol report,” he said.
Schroeder said most early refugees had access to a car and the ability to leave, which allowed them to enter the EU and enjoy free access to free health care. They were also more likely than later refugees to bypass official admissions procedures and generally chose to stay with friends and family. Online social connections indicated that Poland and the Czech Republic had the strongest social ties with Ukrainians.
With an expected number of up to 5 million refugees, according to the UN, Schroeder and his team use social data to offer analysis related to where future refugees are likely to go, where sanitation and food should be directed, and other critical issues. probably in the short term.
In Ukraine, around 1,700 people are hospitalized with Covid-19 as oxygen supplies have reached extremely low levels, forcing the WHO to issue a warning that supplies could run out as early as Tuesday. Tuberculosis cases, although on a downward trend, remain high in terms of case numbers and mortality, according to the WHO, with more than 30,000 cases reported last year.
As with any disaster, people with chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and heart disease are particularly vulnerable as it can be more difficult to access needed medication. If left untreated, the risk of suffering from stroke, heart attack and asthma or increased blood pressure increases. In Ukraine, around 15,000 children have type 1 diabetes, according to the Ukrainian Diabetes Federation, and the local insulin supply is expected to run out as the war continues.
In addition to pre-existing conditions, refugees crammed into substandard conditions are at higher risk of contracting norovirus, polio, tuberculosis and Covid-19. Ukraine has been battling a polio epidemic since October last year.
Moreover, food security is rapidly becoming a major concern, as Ukraine supplies 13% of the world’s maize and 12% of the world’s wheat which, together with Russia’s agricultural production, represents around a quarter of the world’s supply of these staple crops. The World Food Program (WFP) buys 50% of its wheat supply from Ukraine, and countries already facing food security problems, such as Mozambique and Yemen, usually buy a large amount of their wheat and corn to Ukraine.
Direct Relief and CrisisReady reports have so far been shared with a network that links several major UN agencies and NGOs, including the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the European Commission’s Joint Research Center on demography, migration and governance, the Pacific Disaster Center, International Committee of the Red Cross, International Federation of the Red Cross and Nethope.
Direct relief crisis response included commitment of $500,000 and delivery of 360 Emergency medical backpacks requested by the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, including supplies for wound care, tourniquets and other supplies needed to treat people in the field. Direct Relief has also shipped medical items for blood pressure support, intubation/ventilation, IV fluids, antibiotics and more to the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and local partners.
Since January 2021, Direct Relief has shipped more than $27 million in medical aid to Ukraine, including $5.4 million in medical aid that arrived in the country a week before the invasion and was destined for to a Ukrainian NGO that serves hospitals, ambulance stations and medical centers.
Direct Relief continues to monitor the situation and will respond to incoming requests from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and other partners.
Additional reporting was provided by Dan Hovey, Gordon Willcock and Paul Sherer.