Since the Russian military invaded Ukraine on February 24, 2022, attacks to residential areas have damaged critical civilian infrastructure such as power stations, supply networks, and health care facilities, interrupting daily life, including healthcare. Given the attacks to the Ukrainian health system and supply chains, an immediate unmet need became apparent early on, that patients with serious illness would likely need to be evacuated from areas experiencing direct offense.1
“The objective of the Supporting Action for Emergency Response (SAFER) program is to help Ukrainian children with cancer and other blood disorders continue their cancer-directed therapy either in Ukraine if possible, and if not, then outside of Ukraine in specialty centers in Europe and North America,” Asya Agulnik, MD, MPH, of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Director of the Global Critical Care Program and the Euro Regional Program, told Hematology Advisor.
The SAFER Ukraine program, which was highlighted in an issue of The Lancet Haemotology, was launched soon after the Russian invasion due to concerns that the Polish medical system would become overwhelmed by the number of patients who would flee Ukraine and seek medical care.
SAFER Ukraine is a global collaboration between St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, the American Lebanese Syrian Associated Charities (ALSAC), the Polish Society of Pediatric Oncology and Hematology (PSPOH), the International Society for Pediatric Oncology (SIOP) Europe, Childhood Cancer International (CCI) Europe, nongovernmental organizations such as Fundacja Herosi and Tabletochki Charity Foundation, and other governmental agencies.1,2
“The number of international partners that came together very quickly, all with this singular mission, in order to step in and help address this emergency has been really amazing. SAFER Ukraine includes hundreds of individuals and dozens of organizations, all working under the same umbrella to get these kids not only to physical safety, but really to the best available medical care in the world,” said Dr Agulnik.
Part of the success in deploying the program in such a short time span was because of the well-established prewar collaborations between clinicians from St Jude Children’s Research Hospital and other organizations.1,2 The Global Program at St Jude was launched 6 years ago with the goal of reducing disparities in childhood cancer worldwide. They achieve this through regional partnerships with clinics and foundations and have previously focused on pediatric palliative and end-of-life care.3-6