One month after the start of the war in Ukraine, more than 4 million people have fled the country and millions have been displaced internally, while humanitarian needs are increasing exponentially.
Every day thousands of people flee from Ukraine with only what they can carry: often this is their pet. According to information received by our network VSF International from the Polish border at Medyka, about 30% of refugees have a pet, and some of them need veterinary care.
Emergency for the wellbeing of refugees
Usually, pet care is not a part of the mission of the VSF International network, whose main field of expertise remains the support to small-scale livestock keepers and pastoralists – in the case of VSF Belgium, in 9 African countries. However, the urgency and exceptional nature of the situation cannot leave us indifferent and compels us to act in our capacity of veterinarians.
Companion animals play a significant role in fostering psychological wellbeing of pets’ owners, especially in this extreme situation. Taking care of pets means preserving a connection with the life that so many people are forced to leave. While health care and support are given to humans, the furry family members also need their needs and welfare attained: many animals, as their owners, arrive exhausted or with some wounds that need to be taken care of.
Moreover, rabies is still present in Ukraine, in contrast to many European countries which are free from rabies. The sudden arrival of non-vaccinated pets can pose serious threats to public health and require a prompt reaction from the local veterinary services to vaccinate them against rabies or impose a quarantine.
Two VSF International’s member organizations are active in providing support to refugees’ pets:
VSF-Czech’s project “Seeking Refuge Together” is assisting Ukrainian refugees arriving in Czech Republic in need of veterinary care, pet food and pet care for their animals. The organization helps finding the suitable veterinary clinics, offers interpreting services for veterinary clinics taking care of Ukrainian refugees, runs an information hub where incoming refugee pet owners can find relevant information and provides financial aid to allow pet owners to take care for their pets. More information on this program here.
VWB/VSF Canada is assessing the situation along the Polish border and will continue to do so along other bordering countries. Currently their main focus of work is supporting a number of key local partners within Ukraine to provide food and medical supplies to over 700 local shelters and animal care providers. For further information on this program visit their Ukraine emergency page.
For the moment precise information on the situation of farm animals in Ukraine is still lacking. But it is likely that livestock and livestock keepers will be soon in need of support. VSF International will keep assessing the situation and evaluating whether we can scale up our activities in support to Ukrainian people.
How can you help?
If you want to support our activities for Ukrainian refugees, you can donate to: