The Forgotten War

Civil unrest in Ukraine has devastated livelihoods, leaving 3.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance and protection. Many are living in constant fear of shelling. About half of people displaced by the conflict are of older age. Older people, many of whom have limited mobility and resources, are unable to access relief supplies because of the long wait times and extreme temperatures. These conditions, combined with the stressors that accompany protracted insecurity, has created an urgent need for health care and psychosocial support. Individual stories from three older people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine demonstrate the need for ongoing humanitarian support.

Anastasia Egorovna, Luhansk

Anastasia Egorovna lived in the Luhansk region of Ukraine and worked in a factory for most of her life. After the deaths of her husband and older son, Anastasia’s health took a turn for the worse and she suffered a stroke, leaving her bedridden. Today, she lives with her younger son and they live off her pension. HelpAge connected Anastasia with a support group of volunteers who visit her regularly. In addition to relief supplies she received, Anastasia takes great comfort in the company and support from the community who make her feel less alone.

Sergey Nikolaevich, Donetsk

Sergey Nikolaevich is 70 years old and from Kodema, a village in Donetsk. He spent his earlier years working in Russia, but health complications forced him to return home. During this difficult time, Sergey had to have both his legs amputated. He was alone—without friends or relatives—and due to his disability, without a job or means of earning income. He also lacked the necessary government ID to access disability benefits.

HelpAge is in the process of helping Sergey apply for a Ukrainian passport so he can receive a monthly pension from the government. We also paired Sergey with a home-based care volunteer to assist him with daily tasks and provide emotional support. The relief supplies he received include a hygiene kit, warm blanket, and a toilet chair.

Nadiia, Mariinka

Nadiia lives in Mariinka, a town in the “red zone” of eastern Ukraine. After retiring from a 33-year career in teaching, she planned to focus on taking care of her grandchildren. After the conflict began, however, her life changed. Nadiia’s mother had a stroke. Her son and his family moved away to escape the violence and unrest. With Nadiia’s mother in need of long-term care, she stayed behind.

HelpAge reached out to her about becoming a volunteer and now Nadiia provides regular support to older people in the community, visiting those who are unable to walk. Between the shelling and attacks, Nadiia hurries to see those in her care because she knows they are waiting for her. For many, she is the only friendly face they see all day.

Since November 2014, HelpAge International has been providing support to vulnerable older people in Ukraine through distribution of food, hygiene kits, assistive devices and winterization support to nursing homes and vulnerable older people, Personal Social Service groups and Community Safe Spaces, home visits to provide basic care, referral to health and other services, and multi-purpose cash assistance.

HelpAge Canada is exploring a further engagement with our partners in Ukraine and hope to expand our capacity for support.

Please consider a gift to support older persons in harm’s way in eastern Ukraine.