“The tanks were within 30 kilometres of the city centre, and you would see two fighter jets passing by our house”.
As we approach a year since Russia invaded Ukraine, we reflect on how we responded to the needs of the Ukrainian people at this crucial time. Our organisation’s 25-year-old history of working in Ukraine, including our partnership with the Ukraine Ministry of Health on the procurement and distribution of essential medicine and a pre-existing Ukraine office in Kyiv, allowed us to provide support within 24 hrs of the war unfolding.
We spoke to some of our colleagues in the Kyiv office reflecting back on their journey as Crown Agents colleagues and how some of the projects they work on in the Ukraine office have led to both recognition and an award from the Ukrainian government.
“Prior to the outbreak of the war, I had heard about Crown Agents in the news because it had previously supported the Ukrainian Ministry of Health (MoH) in carrying out a series of public medical procurement reform projects. Foremostly, a ground-breaking medical procurement project that obtained vital cancer pharmaceuticals at a competitive market rate which in turn, saved our Ministry over $62 million since 2016. So, when I received a phone call from the Embassy of the United Kingdom in Ukraine asking whether I want to work for Crown Agents, I didn’t hesitate with going forward with the process.”
“In the days leading up to the war, precisely three days before, both the UK and US Embassies had told all their staff and personnel to evacuate and leave Ukraine right away. This instantly changed the tone in the country and indicated that something was to happen in the ensuing days. So, when the explosions began at 4 am in the early morning of the 24th of February, we checked the news to confirm that our suspicions were true and that Russia had advanced into Ukraine.”
12 months on from Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the immediate consequences of the invasion left Ukrainians with limited access to food, medicines, adequate housing, and schools. With an estimated 16 million displaced people across the country and beyond, the conflict has brought a range of challenges such as opening humanitarian corridors.
Amidst these humanitarian challenges are increasing numbers of civilian casualties, injuries, and deaths. Reports released by The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) further indicate that as of January 2023, a total of 6,952 civilian deaths have occurred, with 431 of those being children. These fatalities and incidents continue to happen in neighbourhoods where ordinary people, who make up the fabric of society, suffer from shelling, armed conflict, and aggression from Russia’s invasion.
“Our friends had underground parking which was being used as shelter from what was happening outside. That first night we stayed there was difficult, we had not eaten for the past 24 hours and because of the events happening, I felt numb. As I looked at my daughter sleeping in the trunk of the car that night, it was then that I thought to myself, ‘what did you do in your life to deserve this?”
“After a few weeks in Kyiv, we made the decision to move on from the city and travel towards the town close to the Slovakian border. It was also the moment when people my age were faced with a moral dilemma of conscription or finding other means of helping Ukraine. I decided to remain at Crown Agents which in turn enabled me to work on important flagship programmes of the company, safeguarding the lives of thousands of civilians. Given the historical relationship between Crown Agents and the Government of Ukraine, we were able to ensure the delivery of aid in the form of 97, 000 Individual First Aid Kits (IFAKs), 400 oxygen concentrators, 153 000 medical devices, 91 incubators for babies born prematurely due to stress, and much more to those who need them most. This gave me a real sense of purpose during these terrible, and seemingly hopeless times.”
‘You have to have people on the ground, and this is a great distinction of Crown Agents.’
“Our ability to quickly respond to the crisis comes down to coordination with an experienced team of crisis response and supply chain professionals working globally, coupled with the 15 members of professional staff who work here! The synergy between different departments and offices in Crown Agents allowed us to maintain a close ear to the ground and provide support where needed. As a result, I received an award from the Government of Ukraine for ‘the assistance in the protection of the state border of Ukraine’.”