‘Conditions Are Difficult,’ States Icelandic Security Advisor in Ukraine
“The conditions are difficult,” states Karl Sæberg Júlíusson, an Icelander who is a Senior Security Advisor for the Red Cross in the city Lviv in western Ukraine, about 70 km (43 mi) from the border with Poland. “There is war all over the country, but there are different kinds of dangers here than in the east,” he tells Morgunblaðið.
He arrived in Ukraine at the beginning of March. A the time, the Ukrainian Red Cross was mainly operating in the eastern part of the country. “We put up work stations in the west, among other things to organize the distribution of supplies,” he explains. “We collect relief supplies and move them into storage facilities, including here in Lviv, and distribute them from here. They are mainly sent to the eastern part of the country.”
Karl, who is 55, has devoted the past two decades to relief work. He used to work as a police officer.
His job for the International Red Cross involves doing a risk assessment of the areas in which the Red Cross operates. “I need to assess whether we can send people into the area, how many of them, and under what circumstances,” he notes.
His job has taken him to more than 50 countries for the past 20 years, including Afghanistan, South Sudan and Libya.
In Ukraine, the work has gone well. “We must ensure that our people can work under conditions we deem acceptable. So far, it has worked. At least no one has died. But it has involved many challenges, and there are many countries taking part in the relief work. There is a severe lack of housing and vehicles in the city, limiting how many people we can send here.”
He explains that strict security rules apply in the city, and residents must frequently seek shelter in bunkers.
Karl states it is estimated that more than six million people have fled their homes in Ukraine and that more than a million and a half have crossed the border to Poland. People arrive in Lviv by train, after which buses transport them to the border. Most of them cross the border to Poland on foot. “We bring relief supplies [to the border], hot meals and warm tents for those who need them,” he states.
Karl will be leaving Ukraine this weekend, going back to Geneva, Switzerland. He encourages people to support the Red Cross with financial contributions. “[The Red Cross] is doing an extremely good job in Ukraine,” he concludes.