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Seniors in Eastern Ukraine

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.

Your gift will provide humanitarian aid to displaced older women and men residing in the high conflict zone in eastern Ukraine by providing home-based care activities, provision of assistive devices, wood or coal, hygiene kits, diapers and underpads and multi-purpose cash assistance.

Background

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has had a devastating effect on communities, affecting the lives of more than 5 million people, of which 3.4 million need humanitarian and protection support. Older people constitute a third of the conflict affected population in eastern Ukraine, reaching 41% in areas closest to the Line of Conflict. This is the largest percentage of older persons affected by conflict in a single country and reflects the unique demographics of the crisis. People with disabilities account for 12% of those in need, again with increased numbers closest to the LoC, most likely due to their increased isolation or reliance on others, limited physical mobility, poor economic resources, and their emotional attachment to property and assets, all of which inhibits their ability to move out of these areas.

COVID-19 Statistics

There are a total of 185,000 reported cases of COVID-19 so far in Ukraine since March 3, 2020 to September 22, 2020. Out of the 185,000 reported COVID-19 positive cases, Ukraine reported 81,670 recoveries and 3,705 deaths. 50% of the death cases are people aged 60+.

With limited financial means, and the state of conflict in the region, access to basic necessities and necessary health care is extremely limited for seniors in this part of Ukraine. The effects of extended isolation and loneliness along with a lack of safety, sometimes constant shelling, has extreme affects on physical and mental health.

The survival of these most vulnerable seniors depends on the amazing support of health-care workers and many, many volunteers who put themselves at tremendous risk to care for them.

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.

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Tatyana Konstantinovna, Luhansk

Subbota Tatyana Konstantinovna is 68 years old. She lives in the village of Kamyshevakha, Luhansk region, in a private house. The settlement is in a five-kilometer zone near the contact line.  She is a widow who lives alone. Tatyana has a serious diseases of the musculoskeletal system. She underwent two operations on the joints of her legs and moves around with crutches and hardly leaves the house. She needs constant help and psychosocial support. Tatyana has a minimum pension, around 2000 UAH, much of which is spent on the purchase of medicine and on the boards of public services.

Now, due to the coronavirus epidemic, quarantine has been announced throughout the country. For Tatyana Konstantinovna, life has become even more difficult and dangerous. She feels very vulnerable and unprotected from the terrible disease.

As part of the HelpAge Canada project, Tatyana received a set of personal hygiene and sanitation products. Thanks to humanitarian assistance, an elderly woman has been provided with all the necessary means to keep her house clean and maintain personal hygiene during the coronavirus pandemic.

Nikolai Vasilievich, Luhansk

Bugaev Nikolai Vasilievich is 69 years old. He lives in a private house in the village of Kamyshevakha, Luhansk region. The military conflict has negatively affected the health of Nikolai. He has a serious health problem, blockage of arteries in his legs. In 2019, he underwent a complicated surgery to amputate his left leg above the knee. Due to difficulties with transportation to hospitals, Nikolai could not get disability status. The problems of an older person were voiced at an ADTWG, which was attended by representatives of different humanitarian organizations and the Department of Social Protection of the Luhansk region.  As a result of the joint actions of HelpAge and the Department of Social Protection of Luhansk oblast, Nikolai Vasilyevich received a wheelchair. He was able to return to a full life and became more mobile.

As part of our recent COVID-19 campaign, Nikolai received a hygiene kit. Now he has a three month supply to clean his home with disinfectants against coronavirus infection, observe personal hygiene and follow the recommendations of medical workers.

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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.

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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.

Volunteers Delivering HelpAge Canada Hygiene Kits

We successfully delivered 1,000 emergency hygiene kits to older women and men in Eastern Ukraine along the 5 km line of contact through July and August. These kits provided COVID-19 sanitization materials and PPE, toothpaste, toothbrushes, toilet paper, soap, shampoo, and other hygiene products designed to last each senior or household for three months. Delivery of the kits was also an opportunity for our volunteer and staff teams in Ukraine to visit isolated older people and provide education concerning COVID-19.