Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched on 24 February 2022 throwing the country into turmoil. Twelve months on, I don’t think anyone anticipated that the people of Ukraine would have shown such resilience and would have held out against a ruthless global superpower. The conflict felt uncomfortably close to home and the response from the UK public to the plight of the people of Ukraine was unprecedented, with many opening their homes as well as doing what they could to fund support within the country.
BEVA Trust had been sending volunteers to Kyiv to provide CPD for equine vets since 2014, in a project that was initially established by World Horse Welfare. Several BEVA council members had been to Kyiv as volunteers and knew equine vets there personally, whom they contacted as soon as Kyiv came under attack.
The response from the wider equine sector was incredible with well over £200,000 being raised by the British Equestrians for Ukraine group (BEU), a partnership between World Horse Welfare, British Equestrian, the British Equestrian Trade Association, the British Horse Society and BEVA. The group established and manned a transit centre in Poland near the Ukraine border, which acted as a means of getting horses out and essential supplies in. Initially, there were dire shortages of medicines and materials across the country with needs obviously being greatest in and around conflict zones. However, deliberate attacks by Russian forces on communication links and major urban centres, mass migration and the cessation of normal day-to-day activity resulted in shortages of basic supplies all over the country. Many Ukrainian vets volunteered or were conscripted into civil defence forces, increasing the pressure on those that were left doing clinical work.
I went over to Poland and made a brief incursion into Ukraine in early April with a couple of suitcases of the most urgently needed medicines: supplies that would have taken weeks to arrive by road and might not have got to where they were needed for a much longer time
The need for veterinary support increased as Ukraine repelled the offensive on Kyiv and people sought to round up horses that had been released into the woods as their owners fled. Horses were found emaciated, burnt and injured. Some had been deliberately shot. Many were found dead. Amidst the humanitarian crisis, it was difficult to provide what was needed for the four-legged victims of the war. I went over to Poland and made a brief incursion into Ukraine in early April with a couple of suitcases of the most urgently needed medicines: supplies that would have taken weeks to arrive by road and might not have got to where they were needed for a much longer time with customs delays and the general chaos that pervaded (Figure 1). I was amazed by the number of people who were already helping by driving supplies to the border. My brief foray was followed by multiple articulated lorries of veterinary and husbandry supplies from the BEU group in addition to all the vans and lorries that were arriving from elsewhere.
As time went on, safe stables were established in the west of Ukraine to get horses and their owners away from areas of combat in the east. Normal supply routes were re-established; however, the dire economic situation made it difficult for many owners to afford to transport their horses or to purchase the feed and medicines they need. It became very difficult to know how best to support when resources were finite.
The best way we can give practical help to colleagues and equestrians is to send them a means of generating their own power
Working with local partners, the BEU group has been funding regular supplies of hard feed and forage for the areas most in need. We are also pulling together another major shipment of veterinary supplies to enable the treatment of horses when owners cannot be traced or cannot afford treatment. Many people are out of work or are fighting and many vets are providing veterinary services at little or no cost in the time that they are not fighting or volunteering within their communities.
With the more recent targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure and the winter biting hard, dropping temperatures down to −15°C, there is a real challenge with energy supplies. Many vets are finding it hard to function without electricity at their homes and clinics. Many stables and rescue centres are struggling to meet the basic needs of their animals. Since the war started, the BEU has been meeting regularly to review options for the provision of support and has recently identified that, in addition to sending veterinary supplies and funding feed, the best way we can give practical help to colleagues and equestrians is to send them a means of generating their own power. We have sourced generators in Germany that we can transport to where they will be life-changing and life-saving for Ukraine’s vulnerable horses. The generators sourced will go through a collection point in Poland direct to one of the senior veterinary surgeons in Ukraine, with whom we are in personal contact, and onward to where they are needed most.
We are committed to ensuring they know that we have not become indifferent to their plight and continue to stand with them one year after this hideous conflict started
Donations and support for the Ukraine relief effort have dropped off over time as happens after every disaster appeal. It is easy to become numb to sights that horrified us 12 months ago. Other disasters such as the earthquakes in Turkey and Syria take precedence, there is anxiety over the economic situation in the UK and we question whether our donations can really make a difference. For a number of us in BEVA, the Ukraine conflict either was, or has become, very personal as we know the vets who continue to need our help. We are committed to ensuring they know that we have not become indifferent to their plight and continue to stand with them one year after this hideous conflict started.
|If you would like to help BEVA to continue to support the vets in Ukraine then further information can be found here. BEVA hopes that practices or other organisations might be motivated to fundraise to purchase their own generators; the need obviously goes way beyond the equine sector. The BEU also continues to raise funds to provide feed, medical and other supplies to Ukraine’s horses and more information can be found here.|