World Extreme Medicine’s humanitarian support in Ukraine

4 min


Organisation provides more than £1M in aid supplies 

Devon based World Extreme Medicine Founder talks to Breaktime News about the organisation’s continuing support for people in Ukraine. 

To date, the organisation has provided more than one million pounds of medical training and life-saving supplies to the war torn country. 

Earlier this year, the organisation set up Medics4Ukraine as a response to the unfolding humanitarian crisis.

Breaktime News spoke with Mark Hannaford shortly before he left for his latest visit to the country. As you might expect, entry into Ukraine is difficult. There’s no flights in or out and there are long delays at the borders. Preparation is key.

‘You’re driven everywhere. There are fuel shortages. You need a bucket load of patience and to be more aware than normal. No tower block hotels due to the risk of a missile strike,’ explains Mark. 

‘It feels like Devon or Cornwall when you drive through it. It’s a European country. The Russians are expanding their barrage. There are areas which were considered safe that now have rocket attacks overnight.’

The first World Extreme Medicine convoy arrived in Ukraine in April where it delivered trauma kits and hard-to-obtain medical supplies. 

There have subsequently been two further convoys delivering medical supplies which have provided immediate assistance for people who are sick and injured. The aid provides hope during a desperate time. 

‘It shouldn’t be happening.’

‘You go into a civilian ward in a hospital and you see everyday folk without limbs who’re caught in the crossfire. That’s stayed with me. It shouldn’t be happening. How can this possibly be happening and why is it happening?’ 

‘They haven’t been invaded by someone unknown but by a fraternal country and so it’s very personal to them. They have lost houses where they have lived for 30 to 40 years.’  

‘The first time you hear the air raid warning is quite unreal as you’ve only heard it on films before now. Missiles fly overhead and people look for shelter and cover and try to work out where they came from.’

‘You see destroyed Russian tanks and inside there were people and you have a sense of humanity and empathy.’   

World Extreme Medicine training in Ukraine. Imagery supplied by World Extreme Medicine. 

During our interview, Mark shows Breaktime News an air raid app which send him an alert whenever there are incoming attacks over Ukrainian airspace. 

The last one happened at the start of our meeting (some 36 minutes ago). There have been four or five alerts in the past few hours.

In a previous visit to the country, Mark recalled how he met a 24 year old man whose wife had died during a night time shelling on their home. He was severely injured and was finally found the following day.

‘The commander of the hospital said that people are turning up with carrier bags and that’s all that’s left of their life.’ 

Visiting hospitals and meeting survivors

Mark was heading back into Western Ukraine with world famous photographer (Perou). The pair had been invited to visit hospitals to interview people affected by the invasion.

‘People are beginning to get used to Ukrainian stories and this is a chance for people to tell us their story.’

World Extreme Medicine has also delivered training to frontline medics and provides refresher courses for people coming away from fighting. 

‘Not everyone we train will come back. But, training them, will, at least, give them an extra percentage point towards survival.’

The team have also been providing specialistic bandages and gauzes designed to quickly stop blood loss. It’s a crucial piece of kit for people suffering from blast injuries.

World Extreme Medicine is the world’s leading provider of education, conferences, consultancy, and medical cover in extreme medicine. 

Every year it helps thousands of medical and healthcare workers push the boundaries of their abilities and enables them to thrive and deliver in remote, austere, and hostile environments.

The organisation was born out of expeditions more than 25 years ago. It continues to lead the way in outstanding and inspirational expedition medicine training. 

Alongside training, it also offers extensive consultancy and medical support for projects across the globe.

More recently, the team has been key in setting up and successfully establishing the ‘first of its kind’ Masters’ course at the University of Exeter. They have also worked with Tom Cruise and Paramount Studios on the filming of Mission Impossible.

Mark says the course will help to generate new research to increase knowledge of remote and extreme medicine.

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