What would you do if you were first on the scene after a missile attack?

What would you do if you were first on the scene after a missile strike? Sadly, it’s a question to which every Ukrainian can relate, with regular missile strikes and more than 22,000 casualties having been reported since February 2022. For those still in Ukraine, trying to live as normal a life as possible, the reality is that they don’t know what will happen from one day to the next. And it’s this stark reality that’s one of the main drivers for UK-Med’s programme of medical training: equipping people who could be first responders to an incident with the skills and knowledge to react, treat and save lives.

Meet Zakhar Cherneha – a man on a mission

Zakhar Cherneha, “Zak” from Dnipro is UK-Med’s Training Coordinator and has been instrumental in getting training to as many people, in as many regions, as possible. Zak has worked for UK-Med for a year, initially as logistics support driving tens of thousands of kilometres to take UK-Med’s medics and trainers to the people and regions that need it.

He says, “UK-Med has helped me, my people and my country, so I want to help them. In my first five months with UK-Med I was driving our training team to different locations, and because my education and passion is in communications, I wanted to help promote our trainings to more people. That’s really how it all started; it was a natural thing to organise more trainings in other locations.”

Jake, pictured right, is Training Coordinator for UK-Med.

Today, Zak is part of a team of 10 that has delivered training to 9,500 civilians and medics across Ukraine. Incredibly, Zak did not speak any English 11 months ago, but he did not let it stop him, as he explains, “I spent many hours driving and talking to our UK colleagues, so combined with Google translate, I learned English pretty quickly!”

Training far and wide

Zak sources and researches the areas of need, and the people in those regions that could be first responders to an incident. It can be people in the fire service, ambulance, doctors and nurses, as well as civilians with no medical experience or students studying at university. Zak says, “We tailor our training to the audience and their level of medical experience. In the Kharkiv region, for example, there are villages that can be more than two hours’ drive from the main hospital, so providing trainings to residents who would be first responders is crucial.”

The UK-Med training team has visited cities, towns and villages in the regions of Dnipro, Donetsk and Kharkiv to name a few. In September, hundreds of employees of a large organisation who provide electricity to the whole of Ukraine were trained by the team. With those employees regularly at the scene of missile strikes to repair damaged electrical infrastructure, Zak identified them as key targets for training. They are now trained and better prepared to react when crisis strikes.

There was one phone call that Zak received that underlined just how important the training programme is, as he explains, “We trained railway workers and paramedics in Pokrovsk in the Donesk region. It’s a key area located between Dnipro and the front line. Our training was on a Friday and on the Saturday, a missile strike hit the railway station. I received calls from the paramedics and the railway workers that week to say how they used what they learned and how thankful they were.”

Waves of missile attacks have damaged infrastructure and injured thousands of civilians.

Training in action

Training sessions are interactive, with realistic scenarios applied. Jake Parker is a UK-Med paramedic from Somerset in the UK and has been based in Dnipro since October last year. He is one of two UK paramedics in the training team. Jake says, “Our needs and approach change depending on what is happening at the time. In December for example, we went to a town called Velykyi Burluk in the east, an area with a population of 3000 that had been occupied by Russia for a number of months. We provided training to 150 hospital medics, fire service and local people.

Zak and Jake are pictured last year with UK-Med founder Professor Tony Redmond during his last humanitarian mission.

“Beyond the training itself, we talked to those people and the impact of what they had been through on their mental health was clear. They needed more support. We were able to work with other NGOs and organisations to deliver the psychological support that was needed. It was great to see that support come full circle from our initial training.”

Training sessions are generally for groups of 25-30 people for four hours. Two sessions can be carried out in a day, depending on the locations and they take place six days a week. Jake and the team work with translators, although Jake’s says his Ukrainian “is coming along quite well!”

UK-Med is training communities to save lives. Often civilians will be first on the scene after a missile attack.

Jake adds, “People enjoy our training and we get them really involved. It’s so rewarding to see the impact, from building up the capacity and general knowledge in the population – many of whom have lost or moved from their homes – to people telling us how thankful they are. It means a lot to people that we’re here in their country and that they’re not alone.”

Zak pictured with the training team who have trained over 9,500 civilians in life-saving first aid.

Ukraine is UK-Med’s biggest emergency response to date, with 90 doctors, nurses, surgeons, and paramedics providing life-saving medical aid on the ground since 1 March 2022. The people of Ukraine need our help, and we can only continue to provide medical aid and lifesaving training with your support. Please click here to donate whatever you can.

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