In the early hours of 24 February 2022, Russian forces launched an attack on Ukraine. As of the time of writing – Sunday, 27 February – the attacks have reached most major cities, over 190 Ukrainians have been killed with thousands more wounded. In response to the assault, civilians are abandoning cities and fleeing west in unprecedented numbers; reports suggest over 200,000 refugees have so far crossed the borders out of Ukraine (with estimates by UNHCR that it could reach 4 million). As other emergencies have demonstrated, when people are forced out of their homes there is a critical need to access life-saving support.
On Thursday 24 February, we activated the Rapid Response Facility, created by Business Fights Poverty and Crown Agents as a bespoke, business-led response to rapid onset challenges. It brings together Business Fights Poverty’s 16 years’ convening and rapid collaboration capacity with Crown Agent’s 187 years of experience in procurement and logistics. It was first used in April 2021 to provide companies with a rapid and direct-line-of-sight way of delivering emergency oxygen equipment to India during the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. With one of our partners, Mars Inc, for example, we provided 14.6 million hours of oxygen to last-mile rural and urban communities.
Common challenges in disaster response situations are the lack of clarity on (a) the specific, detailed needs; (b) where to procure the needed items, and/or (c) how to get them to people who need them. This Facility solves all three of these, while also ensuring quality, a better price, accountability, coordination of supply and delivery, and recognition of supporters’ contributions. The Rapid Response Facility uses the power of collaboration to inform and enable a more effective and impactful business response – by sharing intelligence, reducing costs and leveraging combined distribution networks. The Rapid Response Facility gives businesses a rapid, bespoke way to respond to emergencies affecting the people and communities where they operate.
Specifically, the Rapid Response Facility:
- Enables companies to assess immediate and verified needs and context-critical insights via Business Fights Poverty’s network of trusted partners.
- Ensures rapid, cost-effective procurement by Crown Agents from its trusted suppliers, along with economies of scale by combining orders with others.
- Allows for bespoke, last-mile rural and urban delivery by Crown Agents’ award-winning logistics arm, Greenshields Cowie, and on-the-ground humanitarian response by Crown Agent’s Crisis, Response and Recovery Unit.
- Creates opportunities to collaborate with corporates and NGOs across the Business Fights Poverty network, to share costs and on-the-ground distribution networks.
- Supports real-time learning to inform collective, business-led action.
Ukraine Response: Immediate Needs
Crown Agents has been working in Ukraine for the last 25 years, has a committed team of 20 in their offices, and works on a broad range of programmes including acting on behalf of the Government of Ukraine to procure essential medicines, such as life-saving heart stents and oncology drugs. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crown Agents has also supplied all of the country’s COVID-19 vaccines.
Crown Agents are responding out of their offices in Kyiv and Lviv as well as their humanitarian base in Poland. Having been embedded in the Ukrainian Ministry of Health, the teams have a unique contextual understanding of the country’s healthcare needs. They are on the ground, able to track developments and scale-up to assist.
Those who have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine will require immediate food, healthcare and shelter. We need to reach and assist displaced families urgently to avoid unnecessary suffering. As the crisis unfolds, your support via the Rapid Response Facility can ensure we can act early to ensure that immediate needs are met.
Based on regular, direct requests from the Ukrainian Ministry of Health via Crown Agents (who have a team embedded in the Ministry), immediate needs include medical equipment, such as anaesthesia machines, defibrillators, portable breathing apparatus for adults and children, surgical instruments and specialised ambulance transport.
How you can help
Crown Agents is already procuring emergency items, and we are seeking to raise an initial £2.5 million from business and other donors to support the rapid procurement, inspection and delivery of emergency items.
Business Fights Poverty and Crown Agents are also looking for companies to support in one or more of the following ways:
- SUPPLY: Do you supply or have access to any items that are urgently needed?
- LOGISTICS: Do you have logistics infrastructure and/or expertise?
- KNOWLEDGE: Can you or your partners help verify current needs?
- NETWORKS: Do you have global or local networks that can support local action?
Time is of the essence and we are looking to support companies and other organisations with a footprint in the region who want to take action to help the Ukrainian people through this crisis. If your organisation can support this Rapid Response, please contact Keith Kibirango