- Marie Thomas, a psychologist working for Doctors Without Borders (MSF), created a team of 8 health care workers at the Ukraine-Moldovan border.
- The 12 main achievements of the MSF team are described here as well as the problems they faced.
- With fewer people arriving at the Ukrainian-Moldovan border, MSF is now re-focusing its efforts on deploying over 550 personnel all over Ukraine.
Marie Thomas working for Doctors Without Borders welcoming Ukrainian refugees in Palanca.
Source: Copyright Peter Bräunig/Doctors Without Borders used with Doctors Without Borders’ permission.
I interviewed Marie Thomas, a psychologist working for Doctors Without Borders a.k.a. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF). Marie went on an MSF mission in March 2022 to two sites: one in Ukraine, at the Moldovan border, and the other one in Palanca, five kilometers into Moldova. Her mission was to evaluate what was urgently needed by refugees and to create a team of Moldovan workers to address those needs.
Marie said that at the border between Moldova and Ukraine, lots of buses and cars were arriving, mostly from the towns of Odesa and Mykolaiv in Ukraine. Sometimes five buses with at least 60 people on each bus would arrive at the same time.
The scenes there were hectic, with women and children crying, having to separate from men between the ages of 18 and 60, who were prohibited by law from leaving Ukraine.
At the border between Moldova and Ukraine, MSF was the only relief organization (with volunteers from the Moldovan government) helping refugees who would typically spend 15 minutes to 2 hours there.
MSF’s second site, Palanca, offered Ukrainian refugees an overnight place to stay while waiting to travel to other parts of Moldova or to other countries.
Marie recounts that she recruited a Moldovan community healthcare worker who had experience supervising and coordinating projects. This community healthcare worker recruited six other Moldovan workers. So, the MSF team was made of 8 people, Marie, who is French, and, as Marie said, “seven extraordinary Moldovan women.”
The temperature was -10 degrees Celsius (14 degrees Fahrenheit) and, in the beginning, the team worked in tents without heat. Fortunately, soon after, MSF ordered large, prefabricated dwellings which were well heated.
The refugees were mostly Ukrainian women and children (often with their pets) but there were also older handicapped people as well as Roma people who had their belongings in trash bags. Those Roma women were very young, and often much poorer than Ukrainian women.
At both sites (the border and in Palanca), Marie and her team worked on providing psychological first aid. Here are what Marie describes as her team’s 12 best achievements:
12 goals achieved by Marie and her team in March 2022: