Four Child Cancer Patients from Ukraine Have Been Evacuated to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital

In a statement, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the patients will now "be able to safely resume critical cancer therapy disrupted by the Kremlin's aggression"

ukraine hospitals
ukraine hospitals. Photo: ARIS MESSINIS/AFP via Getty Images

As Russia's invasion of Ukraine continues, some of the children most in need of life-saving medical attention are getting help. The U.S. State Department announced Tuesday that four Ukrainian children undergoing cancer treatment had been airlifted from Poland to St. Jude Children's Research Hospital in Memphis, where they will be able to resume treatment.

In a statement released Tuesday, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the department of State had coordinated with St. Jude Children's Research Hospital "to provide necessary life-saving and immediate care to four Ukrainian children whose ongoing cancer treatment was disrupted by President Putin's war of choice."

"The Department supported airlift of these pediatric oncology patients and some of their immediate family members from Poland to Memphis International Airport, where they were met and transported to St. Jude," Price said. "There, the patients will be able to safely resume critical cancer therapy disrupted by the Kremlin's aggression. They will receive the specialized care they desperately need, and their family members will be afforded sustenance, security, and support from St. Jude."

As Price noted, the children of Ukraine are among the most vulnerable during the ongoing crisis, and the pediatric oncology patients, in particular, "need urgent and highly specialized medical care." That care, he added, "as been made impossible by Putin's war."

Price also acknowledged that the four children airlifted to St. Jude "represent a small proportion of the thousands of patients whose cancer treatment has been interrupted and, who, even amid a pandemic and with compromised immune systems, were forced to flee their homes."

"That is why, together with our allies and partners, we will continue to support our Ukrainian partners as we seek to save lives and bring this needless war to a close," Price said.

In the hours, weeks and days since Russia began invading the country, doctors around the world have been working to transport vulnerable patients elsewhere to receive necessary care. Speaking to the medical journal JAMA earlier this month, Dr. Roman Kizyma — director of pediatric oncology at the Western Ukrainian Specialized Children's Medical Center in Lviv, Ukraine — said the process is not an easy one.

"It is really a complicated process," Kizyma told JAMA. "We never did this before. I think experience elsewhere in the world is really limited ... We are determined because we think this is our contribution for our future win over Russian aggressors."

Russia's attack on Ukraine continues after their forces launched a large-scale invasion on Feb. 24 — the first major land conflict in Europe in decades.

While accurate figures on the dead and wounded are fluid and hard to verify, the United Nations released its latest report Monday on the number of recorded civilian casualties in the fighting that began Feb. 24, stating that "actual figures are considerably higher."

Of the 2,421 civilian casualties, 925 have been killed, including 75 children, according to the most recent U.N. estimate. Another 1,496, including 99 children, have been injured.

"You don't know where to go, where to run, who you have to call. This is just panic," Liliya Marynchak, a 45-year-old teacher in Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine, told PEOPLE of the moment her city was bombed — one of numerous accounts of bombardment by the Russians.

The invasion, ordered by Russian President Vladimir Putin, has drawn condemnation around the world and increasingly severe economic sanctions against Russia.

With NATO forces massing in the region around Ukraine, various countries have also pledged aid or military support to the resistance. Ukrainian President Zelenskyy called for peace talks — so far unsuccessful — while urging his country to fight back.

Putin insists Ukraine has historic ties to Russia and he is acting in the best security interests of his country. Zelenskyy vowed not to bend.

"Nobody is going to break us, we're strong, we're Ukrainians," he told the European Union in a speech in the early days of the fighting, adding, "Life will win over death. And light will win over darkness."

The Russian attack on Ukraine is an evolving story, with information changing quickly. Follow PEOPLE's complete coverage of the war here, including stories from citizens on the ground and ways to help.

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