Highland trauma surgeon returns to Ukraine to help following Russian invasion
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Andy Kent set off on his 58th birthday this week as a volunteer with front line aid charity UK-Med.
The charity has just received £600,000 from the UK government to provide humanitarian support to the war-torn country.
The former soldier said: “I’m not sure it would be most people’s idea of a birthday treat but I’m looking forward to getting over to Ukraine to help on the ground.
“I’ve spent more than a few birthdays on weird and wonderful deployments overseas, including one in Mosul, Iraq. For some reason May 2 seems to always clash with me being away. I was in Eswatini last year.
“I’ll be turning 58, so the thought of blowing out all of those candles on a cake scares me more than some of the responses I’ve been on. My wife Jill and I arranged to visit Edinburgh for the weekend to celebrate my birthday before she drops me off at the airport and off I go.”
He said he was proud that the UK has been at the forefront of international support – pledging more than £400 million, including £220 million of humanitarian aid to help in Ukraine.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson last week announced that the UK was sending more medical support, ambulances and fire engines to Ukraine as part of continued support to the country.
UK-Med will receive funding – worth up to £300,000 – from the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) to help train Ukrainian doctors, nurses and paramedics on how to deal with mass casualties.
They will also set up mobile health clinics to support the most vulnerable civilians remaining in Ukraine, including the elderly and young children.
Foreign secretary Liz Truss said: “The Kremlin continues to lie about deliberate attacks on Ukraine’s hospitals and the indiscriminate targeting of civilians.
“Now our vital humanitarian support will help save lives and deliver medical expertise to the frontline.”
The UK is also donating £300,000 worth of medicines and pharmaceutical supplies to UK-Med – enough to support a hospital for up to six weeks.
There have been more than 130 attacks on healthcare facilities since the invasion began and the UN has recorded around 4800 civilian casualties. More than 100 fire stations and 250 fire engines have been destroyed in Ukraine.
Mr Kent, an orthopaedic surgeon at Raigmore Hospital in Inverness, returns to Ukraine to help deliver UK-Med’s support, having already played a key role in helping assess the country’s needs.
He said: “[Russian President Vladimir] Putin invaded on February 24 and a UK-Med team first arrived in western Ukraine on March 1 to carry out a recce to assess how we can best help.
“In the four weeks I was there, I don’t think there was a night you weren’t woken up by air raid sirens going off.”
It was only when he got further east that he began to encounter hospitals full of casualties.