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Help to refugees arriving in Moldova and Poland aims to alleviate pressures on neighbours

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By Rebekah Daunt
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Refugees look out from a bus after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova
Refugees look out from a bus after fleeing the war from neighbouring Ukraine, at the border crossing in Palanca, Moldova   -   Copyright  AP Photo/Sergei Grits

More than a hundred Ukrainians arrived in Frankfurt from Moldova on Friday -- the first of some 2,500 refugee women, children and elderly to travel on an air bridge to Germany.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said at a news conference in the southwestern German city there were about 14,000 places across Europe for refugees in Moldova.

The UN refugee agency says that 376,000 people have already fled to the former Soviet republic, but as the country struggles to cope with the numbers, air bridges could provide a way forward and help take pressure off Ukraine's neighbour which has a population of just 2.6 million people.

Baerbock says an "air bridge" out of Moldova was the "most important step" in helping the country deal with the influx of refugees.

More than 3.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion began over a month ago.

At Medyka, UN refugee officers are working alongside local authorities and volunteers to provide maximum support to some of the two million people who have crossed the border into Poland.

Helping arrivals with special needs and health problems is a top priority for support workers as well as providing protection.

"The first thing fundamentally is that people who are fleeing really dangerous situations where their life is in danger are able to access safety," Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson for the UNHCR stated.

"But then they have other needs that need to be taken care of." 

"You see a lot of people with disabilities who were coming in. They need tailored assistance. Some of them need medical care," Mantoo said.

Meanwhile, in Berlin, a Deutsche Bahn freight train departs for Ukraine three times a week. The carriages are stacked with essential supplies from supermarket chains and manufacturers, all thanks to donations made by German businesses and private citizens around the country.