Thousands of Ukrainians are arriving at the Palanca border crossing in Moldova every day to escape the fighting in the south of Ukraine. Since the war began, more than 230,000 refugees (as of March 8) have arrived in Moldova. However, less than half of them have stayed – heading west to other countries in Europe.
Those arriving in Palanca are mainly from Mykolayiv, a blockaded town 130 kilometres east of Odessa – a target of intense bombing. Entire families, mainly women, children and the elderly, often wait several hours in sub-zero temperatures and wind before being allowed to cross the border. Volunteers have been welcoming them with tea, food, and tents to shelter them from the wind.
Sergei, 32 years old, is from Mykolayiv. After several days of bombing, he took his pregnant wife and six-year-old son to safety in Poland, before returning to Ukraine. Today, he leaves Ukraine through Moldova to join his family. He is one of the few men allowed to leave the country: treated for hepatitis C in Mykolayiv by MSF, he was discharged by the military.
Dozens of people a day, victims of physical deterioration from chronic diseases including hypertension, have been treated at the medical post located at the Moldovan border post. Our teams have set up a medical centre in Palanca to support the Moldovan teams already on site, providing psychological first aid.
Once Ukrainian refugees make it across the border to Moldova, the majority leave the country, heading for Romania, Poland and other destinations in Europe.