In the early hours of Thursday, the 24th of February, Ukrainians woke up to the sounds of bombs and a reality that it will never be the same again. In light of the unfolding crisis and the terrible losses sustained thus far in Ukraine, Students for Global Health as an organisation whose vision is a fair and just world where health equity is paramount, we recognise the grave injustice of a brutal regime’s utter disregard for the sovereignty of a people and their human rights. We call on the international community to come together to protect the welfare of Ukrainian citizens and international peace.
There have been numerous counts of violations of international law, and even reports of war crimes(1) being committed, with schools, hospitals and populated civilian areas being targeted. This goes directly against the Geneva Conventions(2), to which Russia is party to. We demand that the right to life is honoured.
In addition to being a massive humanitarian crisis, this is a crisis for health systems.
We are seeing harrowing images of vulnerable children being born in cramped makeshift bomb shelters, a children’s cancer hospital in Kyiv being bombed and patients and staff relegated to the basements … but this is nothing compared to the untold trauma which will play in the minds of refugees for years to come. There has been and will be further disruption to countless other necessities: food and water supply; sanitation; vaccinations. These must remain a priority for the humanitarian response. Health systems and public spaces must not become targets. We call on NGOs and human rights organisations to coordinate with governments in delivering humanitarian aid to those in need. We urge our members to do what they can from the safety of their homes to render their support (see below).
As a member organisation of the International Federation of Medical Students’ Associations, we advocate for support for persecuted or at-risk academics and healthcare students and professionals trapped in Ukraine, to help them reach a place of safety, where they can work or study.
Upwards of 660,000 people have fled Ukraine and seek refuge in neighbouring countries.(3) We stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian brothers and sisters. The safety of refugees must be a priority, and we demand safe passage for all who need it, irrespective of race, nationality, sexuality, previous refugee background or any other characteristic. Furthermore, any influx of refugees by neighbouring countries must be handled with utmost dignity and respect for human life.
As Students for Global Health UK, we are deeply embarrassed that our government chooses to close its doors at a time when we should ensure safe passage for everyone. We welcome the recent turnaround in the Government’s policy to permit entry to a larger group of people but appeal to go even further, by repealing the visa requirement temporarily and allowing visa-free entry to all those who seek it.
We are inspired by the bravery of those in Russia who speak out for their brothers and sisters across the border, despite the risk of arrest or imprisonment.
With this statement, we, as one of the largest Student Organisations in the UK and part of the IFMSA, a network of over 1.3 million students from all over the world, wish to extend our support to the people of Ukraine and use our reach as an organisation to enact change at a local and global level. We call on all UK universities to join us in this movement of solidarity towards the people of Ukraine and vocally condemn the brutal acts of the Russian Federation and express their support to the people of Ukraine. We encourage our members to sign this petition that urges the UK government to waive the visa-requirement for Ukrainian refugees. https://petition.parliament.uk/petitions/609530.
Click here to do your little bit to lend your support and stay informed
Finally, we recognise that the situation in Ukraine is not at all isolated in the scale of its damage to human life and might be enjoying more media attention than places in the Middle-East and Africa. We as an organisation whose vision focuses on equality for all, strive to use our platform to draw attention to these issues as well.
We stand in solidarity with Ukraine and all those who seek refuge across the globe
- Researchers gather evidence of possible Russian war crimes in Ukraine(The Guardian)
- The Geneva Conventions and their Commentaries (International Community of the Red Cross)
- UNHCR mobilising to aid forcibly displaced in Ukraine and neighbouring countries(The UN Refugee Agency)