Kelsey Lemon: on the Ground Perspective in Ukraine

It’s been two years since the escalation of the armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The end of 2023 and beginning of 2024 marked the most intense hostilities since the beginning of the conflict – reminding us that the need for humanitarian support is still vital.

Vice President of International Cooperation and Programs at the Canadian Red Cross, Kelsey Lemon visited regions of Ukraine impacted by the conflict in late 2023. During her visit, she witnessed the effects the conflict continues to have on individuals, households, and infrastructure across Ukraine

Kelsey has been a part of the Canadian Red Cross for eight years. She has seen first-hand the work of the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement in response to humanitarian crises in several countries, including Ethiopia, Bangladesh, South Sudan, Syria, and Ukraine. Her role focuses on strengthening relationships with international partners and leading capacity-strengthening programs to ensure Red Cross programs and responses reach those who need it most.

A headshot of Kelsey Lemon.The crucial work of the Canadian Red Cross under Kelsey’s leadership in Ukraine and surrounding countries highlights the collaborative efforts to provide relief, support, and assistance to people affected by the conflict

In November 2023, Kelsey spent time in the Cherkasy and Poltava Oblasts, where the Canadian Red Cross is enabling accessible healthcare in remote areas with limited healthcare capacity. 

Kelsey expressed how critical Canadian Red Cross-supported services are in filling a gap in healthcare services. Especially in remote areas where there is a shortage of healthcare professionals, older people and people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities. The Mobile Health Unit services are essential to helping many of these individuals meet their basic healthcare needs.

“Most of the young, able-bodied people have left and so it was older people, people living with disabilities and people with compounding illnesses who really needed the Mobile Health Unit service,” explains Kelsey.
A group of Red Cross personnel pose for a photo in front of a Mobile Health Unit.
The Mobile Health Units, operated by the Ukrainian Red Cross Society and funded by the Canadian Red Cross, provide primary healthcare services in the oblasts of Cherkasy and Poltava.

As of December 31, 2023, the Canadian Red Cross has helped recruit 72 social helpers who have been providing home-based care to 772 people, including older adults and people living with chronic illnesses or disabilities in the Cherkasy and Poltava Oblasts. This includes help with personal hygiene, support with medication, and assistance with other basic needs.

Kelsey emphasizes how crucial these services are to improve people’s living conditions and serve to keep their dignity in their home as they’re cared for in a responsible way.

In the oblast of Cherkasy, Kelsey attended the opening of two refurbished facilities that were restored in partnership with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society. Two buildings were renovated into single family apartments, providing a much-needed longer term solution to individuals and families currently staying in collective centres. 

The purpose of collective centres is to provide temporary accommodations and other essential services to people who have been displaced by the conflict.
A woman smiles, while pointing to a plaque on the outside of a refurbishment site.
The refurbished facilities include units with a private bathroom and a closed bedroom. Kelsey recalls a family of four moving into one of the units. They were previously staying in a collective centre for 18 months. 

“They were so thrilled, in tears of joy and happiness with their new place,” says Kelsey.

In total, 38 collective centres have received funding and expertise to improve the living conditions of people who have been internally displaced to the Cherkasy, Poltava, and Vinnytsia Oblasts.

Mayor of Cherkasy Oblast, Anatoliy Bondarenko also attended the opening of the centre. He expressed his appreciation for the dedicated efforts of the Canadian Red Cross over the past two years. 

Two individuals engage in conversation inside a unit refurbished by the Canadian Red Cross.The Canadian Red Cross has provided support and funding in Ukraine and surrounding countries since 2021 and will continue providing primary healthcare and humanitarian support. 

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