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July 4, 2022 4:11 pm

Israeli Social Workers to Offer Psychological First Aid to Ukrainian Refugees in Moldova

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A delegation of Israeli social workers dispatched to treat Ukrainian refugees in Moldova in July 2022. Photo: Israeli Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs

A delegation of Israeli social workers has left for Moldova to aid Ukrainians who fled fighting in their country, as part of a broader effort by Jerusalem to provide emergency counseling to vulnerable refugees, the Israeli government announced Monday.

The 11-person team includes eight Russian and Ukrainian-speaking social workers from across Israel, who are experienced in dealing with crisis situations and who received dedicated training from the Ministry of Welfare and Social Affairs before being dispatched. They will offer psychological assistance to refugees, namely short-term interventions that focus on emotional and mental first aid for trauma, loss, and bereavement.

Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced since Russia’s incursion into their country in February. Moldova currently hosts more than 83,000 refugees, according to the United Nations, a number similar to neighboring Romania and Slovakia.

The Israeli delegation will work in four refugee centers in the Moldovan city of Bălţi, where significant numbers of seniors, children, and women in need of assistance are staying. It is the first of three such groups set to be dispatched by Israel in the coming weeks to other countries that have absorbed Ukrainian refugees.

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“Israeli welfare providers have extensive experience in dealing with trauma and crisis situations,” said Meir Cohen, minister of welfare and social affairs, “experience that will be used by the delegation to assist refugees.”

“I am proud of the social workers … from across Israel who volunteered to leave everything and fly far in order to help people in need,” he added.

In addition to relief initiatives spearheaded by civil society, the Israeli government has sent medicine and other humanitarian aid to Ukraine in recent months, and established a field hospital in Mostyska that treated some 6,000 patients. It also delivered helmets and protective vests for Ukrainian rescue services, and sought to mediate between the warring parties. Yet Jerusalem has stopped short of supplying military equipment requested by Kiev — particularly the Iron Dome air defense system — in a bid to preserve relations with Russia, which maintains extensive influence and a military presence in neighboring Syria.

On Sunday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky applauded a ruling by Israel’s Supreme Court that struck down limits on the number of Ukrainian refugees that can enter the country.

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