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Poland

Helping Ukrainian refugees access primary and mental health care

The Context

More than 17 million Ukrainian refugees have crossed into Poland since Russia’s full-scale invasion began in February 2022. Today, more than 950,000 Ukrainians are living in Poland, almost all of whom are women and children — an increase in population that has put pressure on Poland’s health system to expand services. Though the primary and mental health care needs among refugees are high, there are many barriers to care, including language barriers, cost, and transportation.

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17.2 million

Ukrainian refugees have crossed into Poland

Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has had a profound impact on Poland, which has seen the highest number of border crossings in Europe.

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956,000

Ukrainian refugees remain in Poland

The number of Ukrainian refugees in Poland is larger than the population of Kraków and would be the second-most populous city in the country.

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80%

of Ukrainian refugees are women or children

Nearly half of Ukrainian refugees are women and one-third are children, which brings an increased risk of gender-based violence, abuse, and exploitation.

Our Impact

Supporting University Children’s Hospital in Kraków 

To respond to the urgent health needs of Ukrainian refugees in Poland, Project HOPE’s emergency response team reactivated its long-standing relationship with University Children Hospital (UCH) in Kraków by supporting the establishment of a Ukrainian children’s ward and additional mental health programming. To date, UCH has seen and treated 5,660 children from Ukrainian refugee families through oncology and hematology; general surgery and emergencies; treatment in physiotherapy; and outpatient/consultation visits. In addition to the grant, Project HOPE purchased $98,000 worth of medical equipment for UCH. 

elderly mother kisses the cheek of her son
Natalia and her son Gennaidy fled Odesa when the bombing started. In Poland, Project HOPE partner’s Accessible World Foundation has provided free physical therapy and psychosocial support for both of them. “We are very happy that such organizations exist and that they don’t leave us on our own,” Natalia says.

Establishing a Safe Space for Children in Rzeszów 

Project HOPE has been providing mental health support for Ukrainian refugees, specifically women and children in Rzeszów, through its local partner, Podkarpackie Stowarzyszenie dla Aktywnych Rodzin (PSAR). PSAR’s TUTU Center — a safe space for Ukrainian and Polish children to come together for play, art therapy, and social activities — has provided mental health assistance to 6,741 Ukrainian refugees and local community members since its establishment in 2022.

Woman sitting with her psychiatrist
Natalya, a Ukrainian psychologist who works with the the Zustricz Foundation and Tetiana, one of the women she works with at Wolno Nam, a shelter for Ukrainian refugees.

Expanding Access to Mental Health Services 

Project HOPE supported Zustricz Foundation, an all-Ukrainian women local organization in Kraków, to open a psychological support center for refugees and migrants in Kraków and surrounding areas. The center opened in October 2022 and has provided mental health assistance to 11,112 Ukrainian refugees. With Project HOPE’s support, Zustricz Foundation also hosted a mental health and psychosocial summer camp with recreational activities for Ukrainian refugees, migrants, and parents.  

Providing Physical Therapy and Social Services 

Project HOPE supported Fundacja Dstępny Świat (Accessible World Foundation), a local organization based in Krakow, to open the SANUS Medical Center to provide physiotherapy, rehabilitation, and psychological support to Ukrainian refugees with disabilities, reaching total of 1,689 Ukrainian refugees living with disabilities. 

Our History in Poland

In 1974, Project HOPE was invited to assist the Polish-American Children’s Hospital (PACH) — now University Children’s Hospital of Krakow — to create education programs for health professionals serving the hospital, making it our longest-running relationship with a hospital in the world. We later completed a medical research facility adjacent to the hospital (1975), a 240-bed rehabilitation center (1988), a 16-bed center for newborns with an intensive care unit for premature infants (1990), and the Clement J. Zablocki Ambulatory Care Center (1996).   

In 1996, we began the Managers for Reform of Polish Healthcare Program to support strategic planning, human resources, financial and operations management, health policy, and more. In 1998, we implemented a breast cancer awareness campaign for physicians, nurses, educators, psychologists, social workers, and breast cancer survivors. In 1999, Project HOPE began a multidisciplinary care of the special child and family program, training health workers who work with children with disabilities and their families and trained gastroenterology specialists to support the development of a Pediatric Gastroenterology Clinic. In 2009, Project HOPE launched a program for children with cancer to improve treatment outcomes.  

In Poland, Project HOPE operates through our subsidiary Project HOPE Polska

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