Jérémie Zahorski, who coordinates Humanity & Inclusion’s programs in Chernivtsi, describes the deteriorating situation in western Ukraine.
Humanity & Inclusion has a team in Chernivtsi, in the southwest of Ukraine, a few miles from the border with Romania. The city has not yet been directly affected by the conflict, although sirens are sounding regularly during the day. Until this week, only one alert had been heard since the beginning of the conflict. This changed Monday, when air raid sirens sounded six times, then a dozen times on Tuesday. This forces us to take shelter underground. Locals are working to protect the public infrastructure and the city’s historic monuments. It is a strange atmosphere.
Many Ukrainians have come to Chernivtsi to escape the violence. For the moment, most of them are welcomed by relatives; many continue their journey to nearby Romania or Moldova.
Helping Ukrainians with disability
In Chernivtsi, we are helping people with disabilities who are often forgotten in crisis situations, and can have a hard time reaching safety. For example, how do you flee fighting when you are in a wheelchair? When you are Deaf or hard of hearing, how are you alerted to an air raid siren? For people with learning disabilities, is information on humanitarian aid or evacuation adapted to your needs?
In Ukraine, people with disabilities live mostly in institutions. You don't see them included in public life, so it is not always easy to identify them and to get in touch with them. We are supporting a center for people with disabilities in Chernivtsi, as the center has doubled its capacity. The center welcomes many people with disabilities or older people coming from centers affected by the fighting. Humanity & Inclusion provides residents with mobility aids like crutches and wheelchairs. So that their stay is dignified, we also provide the center with hygiene items, such as diapers or bedpans.