Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine: Scaling Up Our Support

June 8, 2022
Ukrainian Flag

At the Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, we aim to relieve human suffering in war and disaster by conducting interdisciplinary, practice-based research and education that can be used by scholars, policymakers, NGOs, and others to foster interdisciplinary collaboration. Russia's aggression in Ukraine has severely undermined the concept of sovereignty and has led to escalating human rights violations. We join the international community in condemning Russia's invasion of Ukraine and express unwavering support to the people of Ukraine. We urge our community to unite for peace and act with compassion.

HHI has been working in Eastern Ukraine for the past few years as the Russian-Ukraine border conflict intensified, and we have scaled up our support of organizations in Ukraine, particularly in real-time training and operational support. Here is a list of our efforts so far:


  • Morgan Broccoli, MD (BWH Emergency Medicine) flew to Poland on Feb 28 and has since returned. She was deployed to the Ukraine border as part of a WHO Emergency Medical Team to conduct needs assessments and support the health response strategy at the border.
  • Erica NelsonMD, PhM, MAS (BWH EM) deployed on March 13 in her role as Deputy Medical Director with Team Rubicon and returned in early April.
  • Dan Schnorr, MD deployed to Lviv, Ukraine on March 6 on a rapid exploratory assessment mission with Doctors Without Borders MSF to assess acute medical needs and plan medical and public health interventions.
  • WHO Emergency Training Programs: Training emergency medical teams through collaborations with BWH and our clinical partners. 
  • BWH is arranging a donation of emergency care equipment packed in BEC Training kits to support just in time education.


  • HHI taught a WHO Basic Emergency Care course in Dnipro. HHI is working with the WHO to provide:
  1. WHO Basic Emergency Care course has been translated into Ukrainian and Russian and training modules (recorded and in print) are being distributed widely in the region.
  2. Setting up virtual training sessions for both Basic Emergency Care and for Stop the Bleed in Ukraine in partnership with the WHO and Ukrainian-American EM physicians.
  3. The American College of Surgeons "Stop the Bleed" program and skill sheets were translated and are being distributed by Drs. Eric Goralnick and Nelya Melnitchouk. Dr. Melnitchouk helped translate the BBR modules as well. 
  4. Providing key equipment lists to partners in Ukraine for provision of emergency care
  5. WHO created a new “Basic Emergency Care – War Trauma” which has also been translated and is being distributed.
  • Humanitarian Negotiation Workshops focusing on Humanitarian Access in Eastern Ukraine: Field Focus session on Humanitarian Access in Eastern Ukraine. The workshops aim to develop the professional skills of frontline leaders in negotiation, conflict resolution, and community engagement.
  • Curriculum development for the Sviatogorsk group in the Donbass region of eastern Ukraine in a training and advisory capacity, to reconciliation and shape transitional justice for the people.
  • Kobo Toolbox is currently being translated into Ukrainian, Polish, Romanian, Hungarian, Slovakian, and German
  • Translation of E-learning Humanitarian Response Materials into Ukrainian and Polish
  • BBR partners are collaborating on an expedited translation of Building a Better Response e-learning module script into accessible PDFs in Ukrainian and Polish to be available on a special page on the BBR website. Modules translated into Ukrainian and Polish can be found here.
  • Dr. Sylvia Kehlenbrink Oh has been working with the American Diabetes Association, International Diabetes Federation, and Diabetes Disaster Response Coalition to adapt an Insulin Switching Guide for the Ukraine and their insulin formular, which is being translated into Ukrainian, Russian, Hungarian, Romanian, Slovakian, and Polish, among other languages. IADA put together a webpage with some operational and clinical resources for diabetes care in humanitarian settings.

Press and Research

Patrick Vinck participated in a Policycast with the Harvard Kennedy School

Wartime toxicology: the spectre of chemical and radiological warfare in Ukraine.” Toxicology Communications, 6:1, 52-58, DOI: 10.1080/24734306.2022.2056374

Editorial by Frederick Burkle in Prehospital and Disaster Medicine

Press Release for Doctors Without Borders

  • A team from Doctors Without Borders consisting of an emergency physician (Dan Schnorr) war surgeon and emergency coordinator visited the country’s largest childrens hospital in Kyiv to help them adapt and prepare for war-time conditions. We also conducted an assessment of trauma care needs throughout Kyiv.

New York Times coverage with Dan Schnorr quoted

Fox News interview with Dan Schnorr

Dan Schnorr speaks with ABC News about the mental health toll that the war is having on children

Dr. Erica Nelson provides update to ABC’s WCVB5

Dr. Erica Nelson spoke with ABC's WCVB5 on her deployment to the region with Team Rubicon. 

Dr. Morgan Broccoli, who deployed to Poland with Team Rubicon last week, provided updates on the increasing number of Ukrainian refugees crossing into Poland in a recent article by The Harvard Gazette.

HHI Director Dr. Michael VanRooyen recently participated in a Q and A with The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

HHI team members were quoted in recent NBC News about Ukraine conflict and emerging health threats

Emerging Technologies and Medical Countermeasures to Chemical, Biological, Radiological, and Nuclear (CBRN) Agents in East Ukraine.” Conflict and Health, 14(1), 24. doi:10.1186/s13031-020-00279-9.

Converging impact of the ongoing conflict and COVID-19 pandemic on mental health and substance use disorders in Ukraine.” Journal of Emergency Management, 19(9), 63-68.

The conflict in East Ukraine: A growing need for addiction research and substance use intervention for vulnerable populations.” Forensic and Addiction Research (FASR). 5(3): 406-408.

The Landscape of Disinformation on Health Crisis Communication During the COVID-19 Pandemic in Ukraine: hybrid warfare tactics, fake news impact and review of evidence.” Journal of Science Communication (JCOM), 19 (05), A02.

Strategies to counter disinformation for healthcare practitioners and policymakers.” World Medical & Health Policy, 1-9.

"Ukraine - Conflict in the Donbas: Civilians Hostage to Adversarial Geopolitics," Harvard Humanitarian Initiative, 2020.

  • Since 2014, the war in the Donbas, fueled and sustained by local and regional political priorities, has inflicted a heavy burden of civilian death, injury, displacement, destruction, and lasting trauma.


"Advanced Research Workshop on Environmental Health and Security in Conflict Zone", NATO Emerging Security Challenges. Division, Science for Peace and Security Program North American Treaty Organization (NATO) (SPS.ARW.G5432) Environmental health and security in Ukrainian conflict zones, focusing on water and food security, climate change, migration, environmental toxins in areas of conflict

"Emerging Technologies and Countermeasures to CBRN agents: Advanced Training Response Conflict and Security Challenges in East Ukraine." NATO Emerging Security Challenges Division, Science for Peace and Security Program (SPS.ATC.G5663) Focus on medical countermeasures against chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear (CBRN) agents; emerging technologies, including optical satellite technology and unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV drones).

"Building Global Capacity and Collaboration against Healthcare Disinformation and Misinformation in Ukraine,” Global Engagement. Center (GEC)

  • Goal of Project: To address the growing disinformation and misinformation affecting the healthcare infrastructure within the conflict regions of Ukraine amid the COVID-19 pandemic and national vaccination program.

Continued engagement with key stakeholders on the evolving situation in Ukraine

Presentations and briefings on situation in Eastern Ukraine with the following:

  1. French Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs
  2. French Ministry of Foreign Affairs: Centre for Analysis, Planning and Strategy
  3. French Ministry of Defense
  4. French Development Agency (Agence française de développement, AFD)
  5. Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  6. Swedish International Development and Cooperation Agency (Sida)
  7. Ukrainian Authorities (Geneva)
  8. Swiss Authorities (Geneva)
  9. Key (international) humanitarian players including ICRC, UNICEF, OCHA, MSF, and WHO.

We will continue to work with our operational humanitarian partners as the war plays out, and as refugees move from Ukraine into Western states, including Poland.