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Two years of the Ukraine conflict: Recognizing the work of the Cancer Assistance Programme for refugees in Moldova and Romania

As Ukraine marks the 2nd anniversary of the Russian invasion, we commemorate the resilience of the Ukrainian people and those who have been working tirelessly to support them. One of those heroes is Dr. Horia Vulpe.

Dr. Horia Vulpe, a member of the Radiotherapy task force, discussed the Cancer Assistance Programme he founded in an interview with GCR.

When the Radiotherapy Task Force to support Ukraine was created, Dr. Vulpe was one of the first people to get involved. When he learned that there was a need to help Ukrainian refugees with cancer, in Moldova and Romania, Dr. Vulpe and his colleagues quickly built a program from the ground up to care for these patients.

“They had all these Ukrainian refugees that didn't have medical insurance in Moldova and they didn't really know what to do with them because they couldn't go to Western Europe or distant places to get treatment because they're old, they’re frail. And on this call I said, ‘well why don't we maybe pay for some of their treatment because it’s not that expensive in Moldova, and I’ll just move a lot of them to neighboring Romania; two hour car ride away.’”

The Lancet Oncology reported on the work of Dr. Vulpe and his colleagues at the Blue Heron Foundation, “Design and implementation of a humanitarian cancer care programme for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova and Romania”.

“The programme was designed and implemented in less than 2 months and aimed to financially support refugee cancer treatments in Moldova, offer comprehensive assistance to those in Romania, and coordinate medical evacuations from Ukraine.”

This program paid for refugee cancer treatment costs in Moldova for more than a year until it became part of the International Organization for Migration, a UN agency. In Romania, the program offered one-to-one assistance and evacuated multiple cancer patients directly from Ukraine. They were able to help more than 170 Ukrainian refugees.

Lessons Learned

They shared insights gained in this experience and identified some highlights and challenges within the article. In his interview with GCR, Dr. Vulpe said,

“I think we’ve learned a lot of lessons that are applicable to other crises and humanitarian situations and unfortunately I think there’s going to be more and more of these crises as our societies are more unstable.”

He also stressed the importance of having resilient cancer plans, and to prepare for the influx of refugees in times of crisis.

Global Collaboration

It was through the GCR that he was able to connect with others working on the refugee crisis in oncology in Ukraine.

“I don’t think there was any other mechanism for us to meet, except for these [GCR Radiotherapy Task Force] meetings, that were really a source of information and a source of networking that was essential for our work.”

The life-saving work undertaken by Dr. Vulpe and his team in Moldova and Romania, serves as a unique example of emergency humanitarian response in oncology that demonstrates how reducing barriers to care can save lives in zones of conflict. Fieldwork in global oncology is a crucial component of our shared commitment to ensure that no patient is left behind.

Read the full report in The Lancet Oncology:


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