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Speech by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides at the 2nd Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen “Ukraine and the World: The Future We (Re)Build Together”

Speech given recently (23 July 2022) by Commissioner Stella Kyriakides at the 2nd Summit of First Ladies and Gentlemen “Ukraine and the World: The Future We (Re)Build Together”.

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First Ladies and Gentlemen, friends,

I would like to greet everyone in Kyiv, Warsaw, London, and Washington who are taking part in this important display of solidarity with Ukraine and Ukrainians. Today is an important day.

I was privileged to visit Lviv last week – and meet with my dear friend, Minister of Health Viktor Liashko, Mayor Sadovyi and healthcare workers who are doing incredible work in the face of tremendous suffering.

For over five months now, the Ukrainian healthcare system, doctors and nurses, civilians, and patients, have been put under unimaginable pressure by Russia's brutal and illegal aggression.

So, my message to you, today, is the same as it was to people of Lviv -- the EU will continue to support Ukraine in every possible way and for as long as it takes.

On 15 July, with Minister Liashko, we signed a historic agreement associating Ukraine to the EU4Health programme to ensure that Ukraine can quickly benefit from EU health-related funding to respond to immediate needs and contribute to long-term recovery.

We have also set up a mechanism to transfer Ukrainian patients in need of continued treatment or urgent medical assistance to EU and EEA countries.

So far, close to 900 Ukrainian patients, including children, have been transferred from Ukraine, Moldova, and EU-neighbouring Member States to European hospitals through the EU Civil Protection Mechanism.

But we must ensure that this journey is possible in both directions. Together with other international partners, we are committed to assisting the return and repatriation of patients to Ukraine after they complete treatment in the EU.

This is European solidarity in action. Solidarity that we will maintain for as long as needed -- and even scaled up if necessary. 

The impacts of war on physical health are obvious. But the damage to mental health, although often hidden, can be as bad or even worse. And too often it goes undiagnosed or untreated.

So, I warmly welcome the creation of Ukraine's National Mental Health and Psychosocial Support Program.

Initiated by First Lady Olena Zelenska, this Programme aims to deliver full and effective access to psychological assistance to Ukrainians in need.

As a clinical psychologist, I am very conscious of the dangers of mental health trauma and how crucially important it is to address this holistically and without delay. We are therefore financing mental health actions for refugees from Ukraine through the Red Cross Societies and non-governmental organisations with several million Euros.

First Lady Zelenska today calls for the urgent donation of ambulances, a sight so common on the streets of London, Washington, Warsaw, and Brussels that we don't even notice them. We take them for granted.

Yet, ambulances are the difference between life and death for citizens every day. I would like to call on governments, companies, civil society, and citizens to respond to this call and help save lives in Ukraine. From our side we can coordinate donations via the Union Civil Protection Mechanism.

Ladies and gentlemen,

My visit to Lviv left me with two powerful, lasting impressions.

First – of the resilience, determination and stoicism of the city's health workers, patients, and citizens. It was truly humbling.

And second – clarity of mind about the need to support Ukraine – both in words and most importantly with deeds.  

 I call on all of you to stand together as we support Ukraine now and when it comes to rebuilding it in the future.

Before leaving you, I will repeat the wish I made leaving Lviv: that my next visit to Ukraine will take place in peaceful conditions for the country and its people!

Thank you.

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