On Monday, January 23, Arnaud Pont, who helps manage projects in Ukraine for Handicap International, attended in Brussels The Human Face of the Eastern Conflict conference, which is addressing the humanitarian needs resulting from the conflict. Arnaud gives an update on this forgotten crisis.
Ukraine's current situation
The conflict began in February 2014, and is still ongoing along the "contact line,” which separates Ukraine from the area controlled by the Donetsk People's Republic. Approximately 800,000 people are still living in this area, either because they do not have the means to leave or because they have a disability. Some people have also refused the leave the place they call home. These people require humanitarian assistance, as all state services–including the health services–have been interrupted. There are also 300,000 people in the area under government control. In total, 3.8 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation is critical.
Handicap International supports people with disabilities and older people who are bed-bound. We have been focusing on their physical and functional rehabilitation needs, supplying the health services with mobility devices, and training health care personnel. In 2016, we provided assistance to approximately 1,000 individuals and supported 30 health organizations. Because these individuals have also experienced psychological trauma due to their solitude, abandonment, and the stress induced by the sound of shots and explosions right outside their homes, we’re also providing psychosocial support.
The Ukranian economy has suffered greatly from the crisis. Even in developed countries, the population can require humanitarian assistance in the event of a war or natural disaster. Radical changes in situation can also result from conflicts, for example, prior to 2014, there were no landmines in Ukraine.
What will happen when the conflict ends?
Handicap International will remain in the country as long as needed, but this requires resources. This is why we are taking part today in The Human Face of the Eastern Conflict conference, along with other NGOs, representatives of the European Commission, and the United Nations. The Ukranian conflict is a forgotten crisis that is under-funded. We need the funding bodies to understand that the rehabilitation, mine action, and psychological support needs are still immense, and will be for years to come.
How do you see the situation developing over the next few years?
It's hard to say, as the solution needs to be political not humanitarian. We are asking for access to everybody who needs our help–specifically people with disabilities–and the ability to provide the humanitarian assistance needed.
Handicap International has been working in Ukraine since August 2015. Learn more about our work in this country.