As Russian forces bombard Ukraine’s second-largest city with intense airstrikes — and Russia claims to have captured the key town of Lysychansk — a major shift is underway in the flow of humanitarian aid from Minnesota. to Ukraine.
Local groups are shipping medical supplies in greater volume, with container ships being used to bring tons of aid to the war zone.
“It’s accelerating dramatically,” says nonprofit vice president Joel Anderson. Matter 360. “We’re just seeing more of this desperation to get supplies to the battlefield wounded.”
Anderson estimates there are half a million pounds of medical supplies here, donated by area hospitals. There are smaller items like surgical tools, gauze kits and crutches, but the group’s warehouse in St. Louis Park also holds larger supplies like beds and recliners.
“You can imagine the supply chain that was established in Ukraine is now pretty much all gone,” Anderson notes. “So now the humanitarian efforts have become the supply chain.”
Matter 360 reuses these supplies and then ships them to help workers and organizations.
Thousands of boxes of materials are to be delivered to Mark Lindquist and his humanitarian aid group A-Team Ukraine.
“It’s voluntary, unpaid, and just people trying to help Ukrainians in any way they can,” Lindquist said. “So many people have lower limb injuries and external fixation devices are in high demand in Ukraine for these injuries when a limb has been torn off.”
Lindquist, a US Air Force veteran from Moorhead, says his nonprofit now has 25 volunteers from eight countries.
His new assignment, he adds, is to work with CH Robinson, an Eden Prairie logistics company, to transport 30 shipping containers of medical supplies to Gdansk, Poland, and eventually Ukraine.
“So the math is we have about 600 pallets ready to go to Minnesota,” Lindquist says. “Thousands of boxes that will eventually contain around 150 to 200 tons of medical supplies.”
But first, these shipments must be inventoried to pass customs inspections.
Lindquist says the container ship trip is expected to take around 23 days. He hopes to have these medical devices in Poland by the end of the month.
Then, Lindquist says, his team will transport those items by car or truck to hospitals in Kharkiv and Dnipro.
“We’ve partnered with local hospitals, military surgeons, to make sure these things get into the right hands of the right people at the right time,” he said.
With the war now over four months old, both men say medical needs are changing.
This means moving items that cannot be easily carried by individuals on a commercial flight.
“Palettes of crutches, paddles of wheelchairs, and even a few scooters — those things you can’t get on a plane with carry-on luggage,” Lindquist says. “Make sure you get them there.”
“We still see individuals coming in with luggage and just duffel bags full of supplies,” Anderson adds. “But there is a real increase in full shipping containers being shipped.”
Anderson says battlefield conditions change the type of medical supplies needed. For example, a collapsible stretcher is much easier for doctors to carry in the field.
Previously, the cheapest price Lindquist could find for commercial shipping was around 80 cents a pound.
He credits CH Robinson with being helpful, offering to ship items for just pennies a pound. Lindquist says that’s a big difference when it comes to shipping hundreds of tons of medical supplies halfway around the world.
He adds that it helps to have good contacts within the military community.
“I work with military veterans who are combat medics. We obtain [medical supplies] in their hands,” says Lindquist. “If it’s tourniquets and individual first aid kits, things you can use in a combat trauma situation.”
Both Anderson and Lindquist believe the urgent need for medical supplies is not going to end anytime soon.
“Ensuring that significant supplies not only arrive today, but will be there for next month and in the months to come,” Anderson says. “It could easily continue the rest of the year.”