Humanitarian Action

‘I didn't want to be a problem, I wanted to be a solution.’ Meet the man teaching first aid skills to Ukrainians

First aid symbols

First aid is useful in peacetime, indispensable in war. Image: Unsplash/Claudio Schwarz

Johnny Wood
Writer, Forum Agenda
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  • Aid worker Fedir Serdiuk teaches Ukraine’s civilians first aid, helping shape the country’s emergency response to Russia’s invasion.
  • The training has helped give 50,000 civilians the skills and knowledge needed to provide primary care to injured people.
  • The conflict has shifted the teaching focus to treating trauma wounds like bleeding, a leading cause of death during the war in Ukraine.

“Apply direct pressure on the wound. Just close the wound with your hands and press hard, push hard, to stop the bleeding until somebody who knows how to control it in a more advanced way comes.”

These are the words of Fedir Serdiuk, a first aid expert helping train civilians in Ukraine to treat wounds caused by gunfire or shelling and to deal with medical emergencies. He is describing how to help a patient who is bleeding – a primary cause of death in conflicts – by stemming the flow of blood.

Fedir is the founder of First Aid Special Training (FAST) and is one of the World Economic Forum’s Global Shapers, a network of young people driving dialogue, action and change.

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In peace times, FAST students learn how to handle cardiac arrests, burns and other domestic medical emergencies. But Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has shifted the teaching focus to treating trauma wounds like bleeding, as well as collapsed lungs and airway obstructions, to help civilian first responders save lives.

Civilian first responders

FAST was established in 2016, a few years after Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. It was this conflict that steered Fedir toward a career as a medic – having been told by a friend that it’s not easy to find your place in war, Fedir found his place as a Red Cross emergency response team leader.

“I received first aid training from a friend of mine who was in the Red Cross, and I thought that it was a brilliant idea to do this low-cost, high-value, fast training that allows a person to have the skills necessary to eliminate key preventable deaths. I wanted as many people as possible to get this knowledge … so I became a first aid trainer and provider myself.”

Since then, this Ukrainian leader and his team have taught first aid to more than 50,000 Ukrainian civilians, giving them the skills and knowledge needed to provide primary care to people wounded in the invasion.

“I considered what happened in 2014 as an emergency for Ukraine, and I didn't want to be a bystander, a witness,” he says. “I didn't want to be a problem for somebody to take care of, I wanted to be a solution or part of the solution.”

First aid training.
First aid training helps prepare civilians in Ukraine to cope with medical emergencies. Image: Unsplash/Martin Splitt

Safety first

As you might expect from a man that has dedicated his life to saving other people, the safety of his trainees is also of paramount importance.

“We train people not to be heroes, not to become the ‘We Remember’ pictures on Facebook, because it's very important to understand that heroic effort which led to the traumatizing or death of the lifesaver doesn't help the patient, doesn't help the community. It only helps our enemy. So the number one tip is to stay safe and to apply first aid only when it is possible,” Ferdir says.

Tweet from the World Economic Forum.
Young Global Leaders class of 2022. Image: WEF

As of 19 April, there had been more than 2,200 verified civilian deaths during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and over 2,800 reported civilian injuries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. However, the UN body warns that the actual toll could be higher.

The invasion has also forced more than 10 million people in Ukraine to flee their homes.

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The views expressed in this article are those of the author alone and not the World Economic Forum.

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Humanitarian ActionHealth and Healthcare
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