Portland-based CEO helping on the Moldova-Ukraine border

Published: Apr. 14, 2022 at 6:37 PM PDT
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PORTLAND, Ore. (KPTV) - As the war in Ukraine continues, people in Portland also continue to lend a hand where they can. On Tuesday, Portland Medical Teams President and CEO, Martha Newsome, arrived at the Moldova-Ukraine border to help refugees.

407,000 refugees have fled to Moldova, that’s about 15% of Moldova’s population. Martha has a small team covering 3-5 refugee centers.

“They are not used to dealing with this level of grief and trauma that they’re seeing. So, training them in first-aid in case we start to see some trauma victims come across the border if Odessa gets bombed, there’s scenario planning happening to be able to care for the wounded,” says Martha Newsome.

89% of the refugees Newsome sees are women and children. She met a nurse, a single mother, with two kids and her 71-year old mother. Newsome says she would ask a question and the mothers’ eyes would tear and was saddened the only pictures she had with her, was on her cell phone. She packed all she could and is now searching for her next step. But others are encountering a policy you’d hope you would never have to face.

Men have the chance to leave. The policy is if they have less than three children, they have to stay behind help fight but if they have three children, they’re able to come across the border with their families.

Many of the people who are fleeing are middle-class, quite well educated but really didn’t expect this to happen. Some of the early refugees had plans in place, they were meeting relatives. They knew what they were trying to do and now folks are having to make a quick decision, grab what they can, get across the border because they were so concerned about the safety of their families and their children,” says Newsome.

The spread of COVID-19 among refugees is a concern, but so is the common cold. Medical Teams International has been able to ship seven tons worth of medical supplies along with medicine to last about a month.

“They might have a flu. These kids are in close quarters, so diarrhea outbreaks are going around, norovirus, flus. Some of them are just traumatized, they’re having some physical symptoms with that as well the older folks have high blood pressure, and they have some long-term illnesses and need prescriptions refilled. They didn’t even think to bring their blood pressure medicines with them,” says Newsome. “The elderly, they don’t have passports. They may not have the resources or even plans to get across the border or cars. We are hoping to be able to support some of the cities that have received any displaced people in their staying on the west of the country.”