East Cowes Deputy Mayor, Karl Love, has returned from a week-long visit to Moldova highlighting the appalling conditions Ukrainian refugees are being forced to endure.
Karl was accompanied by Moldova-born Victoria Dunford, founder of East Cowes-based charity MAD-Aid, which has sent 11 articulated truckloads of supplies to the country with some of it managing to get into Ukraine.
Part of a civic visit by East Cowes Town Council, it included talks with Marco Shevchenko, the Ukrainian ambassador to Moldova, the country’s Prime Minister’s Council in Parliament and a variety of local mayors and townspeople.
But Karl was astonished by a lack of presence from major peace-keeping forces like the UN. He said: “Moldova is a very poor country and trying hard to support escaping displaced people and refugees, but it has little resources of its own.
“I’m not critical of the Moldovan people and their efforts, but of policies and red tape. They need more support from the Western world.
“Wealthy western governments are ill-prepared, unco-ordinated and thrifty with their financial support. We are talking about human beings and life, not objects of possession.”
Karl then gave his verdict on the conditions which await the refugees once they cross the border. He said: “During our stay, I visited tented villages which are at this time, thankfully, ghost towns but eerily stand waiting in preparation once again for what might be to come.
“I see tents erected on bare grass, and filthy mattresses, fit for nothing more than a bonfire. The toilets are unfit for human use in this day and age.
“How is it that what is being provided is the most basic of anything and just being used to keep people alive and nothing more?
“The facilities are not there to enable living; they are merely part of a survival mode action. I expected much more than that in this day and age from the world’s best efforts.
“Whilst many people have moved on, seeking a better existence, it is those who are the poorest and have little in the way of possessions that will suffer the most.
“Moldova has thousands of empty properties due to its own migration issues. It’s true that some of them are not fit for purpose, but keeping people close to home where they have similar cultures and languages, removes the need for complicated solutions to be created back in the United Kingdom.”
Karl was full of praise for Victoria, who received a thank you letter from Mr Shevchenko for the work of MAD-Aid. He added: “I have seen Victoria doing seemingly impossible things to get aid across the border, which is currently closed to exports.
“Her determination and contacts within government have opened doors that cannot be opened. Even the Ukrainian ambassador was surprised at how Victoria had managed to get aid in trucks out of Moldova and into Ukraine.
“MAD-Aid is an international organisation with a big heart and a small team of people who get things done, whilst international organisations walk around with clipboards.
“Victoria is co-ordinating, from the UK, through volunteers and the team based at the Phoenix Centre in Moldova.
“In Moldova I have seen items and chairs from the Mountbatten Centre and computers which would have been thrown away. I have seen food, which Islanders sent via MAD-Aid, being delivered, beds from St Mary’s hospital and cabinets. All kinds of medical aids which would be thrown in the skip here have been recycled to a high standard and making a really big difference to the lives of people. This is the powerful work of MAD-Aid and it is incredible to see.”
And Karl is asking for other countries and organisations to step up their game. He said: “The big organisations like the UN, UK and other European countries seemed almost invisible in Moldova.
“What have we learnt from previous conflicts where people have been displaced from their homes, terrified from what might be done to them and others? How can we possibly justify providing tented villages with virtually no facilities? I’ve seen a field kitchen fit for boiling eggs and that’s about it! Toilets made out of timber!
“Why, when we have portable toilet blocks and showers and kitchens, have they not been pressed into action? Why does the Western world not have a pre-fabricated emergency village, pre-packed, constructed of high-quality portable buildings, pop-up buildings, trailer tents and even converted cruise liners?”
Important questions which could save many lives.