Mental Health In Ukraine

Since gaining independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine has faced many troubles. As of early 2014, Ukraine has been in nearly continual conflict with Russia and Eastern Ukraine’s pro-Russian separatists. Ukraine is also home to almost 45 million people. In July 2018, over 1.5 million people were internally displaced, meaning that they had to leave their homes as a result of the fighting. Mental health in Ukraine is affected by the enduring strife in their country.

Issues Impacting Mental Health in Ukraine

Many of those living in Ukraine deal with problems like anxiety and depression, that negatively influence their mental health. These conditions are exacerbated by turmoil. Citizens of Ukraine have dealt with the consequences and brutalities of war, including casualties of friends and family members. Some have had to leave behind the places they call home.

In addition, physical threats are also often an issue. Those living in war zones or even partial cease-fire zones, such as the line of contact through Donetsk and Luhansk, are in constant danger. Roughly 3,300 civilians were killed from 2014 to 2018.

Mental health care is also taboo in Ukraine. During the Soviet era, mental health issues were used as an excuse to imprison in asylums those with differing political beliefs from those in power. The ramifications of this injustice persist today, with many skeptical of psychiatry.

This taboo worsens the effects of anxiety and depression. One survey of 1,000 internally displaced individuals found that 20 percent of those internally displaced suffer from moderately severe to severe anxiety. Also, 25 percent suffered from moderately severe to severe depression. These numbers are significantly higher than the percentage of people suffering from anxiety or depression in the United Kingdom.

The stigma surrounding mental health deters some from voicing their struggles. The matter is further complicated as people who prefer to speak with Church leaders are now unable to do so because many leaders have also fled out of necessity. Those living in separatist territories are denied access to a psychological help hotline. Also, up to 77 percent of the internally displaced are completely deprived of any and all forms of professional help.

Organizations Working to Improve Mental Health in Ukraine

UNICEF has a mobile outreach program that aims to provide psychosocial support to the people of Ukraine. These individual and group activities are designed to focus on relieving anxiety and fear, issues that are abundant in the turbulent areas. UNICEF’s efforts are near the line of contact and provide help for children and their caregivers; 1,792 people were helped by these efforts during January 2019.

Also, UNICEF established the aforementioned hotline for both legal and psychological relief. In 2017, over 43,000 calls were made to the hotline. This outlet for help provides much-needed support to those in need.

The WHO, in cooperation with Ukrainian health authorities, also created a mobile mental health center to provide psychological services, support and education. The program is community-based. Based on the success of the four mobile units across the conflict areas, this system may be implemented on a larger scale as a measure to reform mental health care in Ukraine.

Johns Hopkins University, along with USAID, recently completed a project that started in March 2015 in Ukraine. The design sought to improve the mental health of community members and research the effects that conflict has had on the population.

With the help of these organizations and more, hopefully, the effects of the Ukrainian struggle on mental health can be alleviated. The programs are working to find workable solutions to mental health stigmas and to provide relief for those facing issues with mental health in Ukraine.

– Carolyn Newsome
Photo: Flickr

Education in UkraineDue to the country’s poor economic stability and growth and frequent changes in power, education in Ukraine has been unsustainable and inadequate. In 2017, a new law on education was signed, aiming to improve the educational system in Ukraine. Below are 8 facts about education in Ukraine, and how the government is trying to improve its educational system.

  1. Ukraine has one of the highest rates of national spending on education in the world, with 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) being devoted to education funding. Despite this large quantity of funds, education financing decreased by 1.2 percent from 2013 to 2017. The 2017 Law of Ukraine on Education commits the country to devote at least 7 percent of GDP on education. This is in an effort to remedy the problems of inadequate facilities and insufficient teacher salaries.
  2. A section of the new Law of Ukraine on Education is sparking major international controversy. The law, which will gradually develop between 2018 and 2020, states that all secondary education will be taught in Ukrainian. The debate about the country’s accordance with the standards of the European Union is in relation to the treatment and accommodation of minorities throughout the country. Hundreds of thousands of Romanians, Moldavians, Hungarians, and Russians live in Ukraine. These citizens and the leaders of their countries of origin feel as though this language law marginalizes minority groups. Response to the law by foreign officials was swift and explicit. For example, Hungarian Foreign Minister Péter Szijjártó has been expressing that Hungary would not support Ukraine’s initiative of European Union integration. To date, it is unclear whether this portion of the law will be executed or not.
  3. Despite the language controversy, the new education law demonstrates positive forward motion and the Ukrainian government’s understanding of the existing inadequacies. The law put into effect by Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko on September 25, 2017, provides funding for better materials and technologies in classrooms. Education disparities were most prominent in rural schools still using older technology and teaching methods. As a whole, the movement sways away from the previous structures of education in Ukraine. Then, the focus was on uniformity and rote memorization of impractical facts. Now, the law calls for a greater focus on the student as an individual and their applicable skills.
  4. One of the focuses of this new education reform is on primary education. In fact, observation of 100 schools nationwide will serve as experiments of the new system. The new primary school system introduces children to courses that foster critical thinking and analysis. Classrooms will now have accommodations so that children may learn while sitting or lying on the floor. Additionally, new building toys such as Legos will be available, which help to develop fine motor skills. Finally, this type of education mandates a smaller class size and greater teacher salary.
  5. Ukraine has the smallest class sizes in the world, but this ratio is due to the number of students decreasing at a higher rate than the number of teachers. However, communities are hesitant to close schools. Additionally, as of 2016, funding for schools came from the regions, while the community was maintaining management and maintenance. Furthermore, schools with low enrollment are continually receiving funding because the surrounding community is providing support. Overall, the average class size is nine students despite these efforts.
  6. More Ukrainian students are choosing to attend universities abroad than ever before. In 2016, 176 percent more students studied abroad than in 2006, with over 60,000 Ukrainian students enrolled in abroad programs. Students who make the decision to leave Ukraine for their collegiate education are seeking to make themselves more marketable to employers internationally and to escape the poor economy of Ukraine.
  7. The Ukrainian education system is switching from an 11-year program to a 12-year program. This includes four years of elementary education, five years of basic education, and three years of branch education. The final three years will serve as either academic or vocational training. This will prepare students to study an area of interest at a higher level or to enter the workforce. This change is also in an effort for education in Ukraine to align itself with European standards.
  8. An important highlight of the country’s new education law is its focus on inclusive education, a facet of education never before adopted in Ukraine. The new law allows for teacher specialists to work with children with physical and mental disabilities. This further allows them to integrate into special programming in ordinary schools.

These 8 facts about education in Ukraine highlight the country’s hopes of improvement for its school system through the implementation of Law of Ukraine for Education. If the spirit of these goals is successful, Ukraine will continue to advance the inclusion and quality of its schools, overall improving the education of all students.

– Gina Beviglia
Photo: Flickr

10 facts UkraineUkraine is a beautiful country nestled between Russia to the east and the European Union to the west. This precarious location has led to conflict and hardship for the people of Ukraine, but there are programs in place now to improve the lives of the citizens living in these conflicted regions. In order to evaluate the best course of action to better the lives of the Ukrainian people, it is important to understand these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine.

Top 10 Facts About Living Conditions in Ukraine

  1. In 2014, the Euromaidan movement erupted in eastern Ukraine when President Viktor Yanukovych decided not to sign an agreement with the European Union, thus bringing Ukraine a step further away from joining the EU. Yanukovych was removed from the presidency in 2014, followed by political unrest, the annexation of Crimea by Russia in March 2014 and the outbreak of fighting between Ukrainian nationalists and Russian forces in the Donbass region of Ukraine. This conflict has resulted in more than 10,000 deaths.

  2. The conflict in Ukraine has resulted in 1.5 million internally displaced persons, according to the Ukrainian government. Despite this enormous challenge, the UNHCR is working to provide aid, including blankets, cooking supplies, clothing and other supplies to help these people survive the harsh winter. Understanding the top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine can help shed light on what more needs to be done to aid these displaced people.

  3. In the immediate aftermath of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, hunger and food shortages became pressing issues. The United Nations Food Programme responded by increasing its presence in Ukraine to provide food to the 190,000 people deemed vulnerable due to conflict or the inability to leave the conflict zone. The World Food Progamme has also provided food supplies to the region in case further violence and displacement ensue.

  4. The Roma minority in Ukraine are continuing to face discrimination without much aid from the government. This discrimination has culminated in violent attacks against Roma communities. For example, in April 2018, a nationalist group called C14 attacked a Roma community by throwing rocks, spraying pepper spray and tearing down tents. None of the members of C14 were arrested despite the fact that the group filmed their attack and posted it to the internet. Instead of punishing the group, the government awarded them with grants to hold “patriotic education” meetings in rent-free auditoriums. Further attacks continued, resulting in the murder of a Roma man and the robbing of 150 Roma families in Slovyansk.

  5. Anti-Semitism has become a devastating problem that is quite prevalent in Ukraine since the conflict with Russia began. After a Passover service in a synagogue in Donetsk, masked members of the Donetsk People’s Republic, a pro-Russian group that “claims to represent ethnic Russians in eastern Ukraine,” handed out leaflets to the members of the synagogue that read that all Jewish Ukrainians should register with the government, leave the country or pay a fine. When confronted about the issue, the Donetsk People’s Republic denied they were involved and in turn claimed the Ukrainian government was guilty of anti-Semitism.

  6. Unemployment in Ukraine decreased from 8.30 percent in the second quarter of 2018 to 8 percent by the third quarter; although, the rate did increase again up to 9.3 percent. Although the Ukrainian economy grew by 3 percent last year, which is positive, it should be growing at a rate closer to 5 or 6 percent annually. In fact, the Ukrainian finance minister stated that, at this current rate, it would take Ukraine up to 50 years to reach the economic growth of its neighbor, Poland.

  7. Gender equality has a ways to go in Ukraine in the political, economic and social spheres. The Global Gender Gap Report by the World Economic Forum ranks Ukraine at 64 in terms of women’s income, 22 in terms of women’s education and 119 in terms of political representation. Women make up 55 percent of the unemployed population in Ukraine. Women make up only 9.4 percent of the Ukrainian parliament. However, the Ukrainian government does recognize this issue and is taking steps to promote gender equality. There is a new state program to reduce the wage gap through efforts to increase the hiring of women in better-paying positions and “combating gender stereotypes about female and male professionals.” Equal pay will also be a focus in order to reduce the wage gap.

  8. One major issue around in Ukraine is child marriage. According to UNICEF, 9 percent of Ukrainian girls are married before the age of 18. The issue is more prevalent in poorer, rural areas of the country where 15 percent of women in poorer households were married before the age of 18 compared to 10 percent in the wealthier families in Ukraine. According to the organization Girls Not Brides, “Patriarchal attitudes still maintain that a Ukrainian woman’s main role is to be a wife and mother. Some young girls and families support early marriage as it leads to the ‘right path’ in life.” However, the government has recognized this issue and has signed several U.N. resolutions to eliminate child marriage.

  9. Education attendance rates are high in Ukraine, although there are several institutional issues. According to the World Bank, there is very little gender disparity in primary school attendance. In 2014, 92 percent of boys and 93 percent of girls attended primary school. However, the World Bank also reported that “unofficial payments are common in education. […] schools collect money from parents for classroom remodeling and flowers or gifts for teachers.” The Ukrainian government has taken steps to designate 7 percent of its annual GDP to improving education throughout the country.

  10. Despite the devastation the conflict in Ukraine has caused for citizens, there are NGOs in the region attempting to provide aid to those affected by the violence. Hope for Ukraine is an organization that delivers aid packages to the frontline in the Donbass region. It has volunteers visit wounded soldiers in hospitals and holds after-school English lessons for Ukrainian school children through its Children’s Rescue Center.

The issues in Ukraine will not be easily solved, but hopefully, these top 10 facts about living conditions in Ukraine highlight the successes that several organizations have brought about and what still needs to be done to improve the lives of Ukrainian citizens.

Alina Patrick
Photo: Flickr

Aged and Disabled in UkraineThe elderly population is the fastest growing age group worldwide, and two-thirds of its population lives in low-income and middle-income countries. Such geographic locations have greater likelihoods of humanitarian crises, and the impacts of humanitarian disasters in these countries are more severe. Research shows the aged and disabled in Ukraine also have higher rates of poverty than younger, non-disabled people, making them more vulnerable during disasters. More than one-fifth of Ukraine’s population (more than 9.5 million people) were over the age of 60 in 2018. The country also is facing one of the world’s most acute global crises today.

Increased Vulnerability and Disproportionate Effects

According to HelpAge International (HAI), marginalization is having greater effects on older individuals, especially older women and the disabled. Since 2014, older persons have constituted more than one-third of the conflict-affected population — equivalent to more than one million people. Many of them have fled their homes due to violence along the contact line — a line dividing government-controlled areas (GCA) from non-government-controlled areas (NGCA). The number of affected people continues to rise as the ceaseless fighting impacts the mental health of the aged and disabled in Ukraine. These populations must contend with widespread landmines and restricted access to nutrition, healthcare, housing, pensions, fuel and public transportation.

Residents living along either side of the contact line and in NGCA are among the most vulnerable in Ukraine because humanitarian access is severely restricted in these areas.

The majority of individuals residing in and displaced from NGCA collect pensions. However, they can claim their pensions only if they are registered as internally displaced persons (IDPs) in GCA. They must also undergo complex and discriminatory vetting for pension verification, including home visits, physical identification in banks and additional safeguards. This approach is riddled with liabilities and creates serious humanitarian consequences because pensions are the sole source of income for most pensioners in NGCA. If approved, administrative requirements demand the aged and disabled travel through five checkpoints along the contact line every few months to avoid pension suspension. These individuals spend 50 to 80 percent of their monthly pension on travel expenses. Consequently, many seniors are cut off from their pensions because they either are physically unable to travel to GCA or cannot afford the trip.

Pensions are not the only reason seniors cross the contact line. They also cross to visit with family, obtain documentation and access medical services. The many restrictions imposed on crossing result in older and disabled persons waiting at entry and exit checkpoints for extended periods of time without adequate facilities like toilets, drinking water or shelter. Red tape often prohibits them from crossing with necessary items like medications and food as these may not be permitted goods. People also must renew their electronic passes on regular basis if they plan to cross — a near impossibility for much of the senior population who has no computer or internet access. These conditions are detrimental to the well-being of the aged and disabled, creating a dire need for mental health services, psychosocial support and life-saving aid.

Forgotten in the Midst of Crises

Marginalizing the older and disabled during disasters is not unique to Ukraine. In 2015, HAI interviewed hundreds of seniors across Ukraine, Lebanon and South Sudan. In all three countries, there was evidence of neglect. Most interviewees said they had never met with anyone to discuss their needs nor did they have sufficient information about available assistance. Almost 50 percent complained that health services were not equipped to treat their age-related conditions, and nearly half said they suffered from anxiety or depression.

Humanitarian Relief for the Aged and Disabled in Ukraine

HAI has worked with the elderly in Ukraine for more than 10 years and has provided them with community safe spaces. The organization has also directed advocacy and coordination efforts with NGOs and UN agencies to ensure that seniors are not excluded from receiving services and psychosocial support. HAI has established support groups and provided home-based care activities, assistive devices and hygiene kits to those of advanced age. However, despite the organization’s humanitarian assistance, a survey they conducted in 2018 showed that those aged 60 and older are still suffering.

The findings were echoed at a 2018 conference organized by the European Commission and the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Brussels. The conference highlighted the support that the WHO and partners have given Ukraine to help combat the devastating effects of the country’s ongoing crisis. During the conference, it also was noted that despite the efforts of the WHO and its health partners, Ukrainian health needs still are on the rise. Speakers attributed the lack of improvement to a weak health system, limited disease prevention and insufficient treatment for chronic illnesses.

The conference also confirmed that the European Union (EU) will provide an additional €24 million to conflict-affected persons in eastern Ukraine, bringing their aid total for Ukraine to more than €677 million. The money will be used to fulfill the essential needs of the most vulnerable populations along the contact line, including IDPs and those in NGCA.

With coordinated efforts and increased humanitarian funding, permanent change for Ukraine is on the horizon.

– Julianne Russo
Photo: Pixabay

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in the Ukraine
Ukraine came into focus of international journalists when Russia annexed the Crimean Peninsula in 2014. Since then, most media coverage of the country has centered on the raging war in the country and reports of the military efforts, diplomatic attempts at peace or humanitarian efforts to help civilians.

Despite the lack of publicity on other relevant topics in the country, Ukraine has made significant steps in improving the quality of treatment and health care available to its citizens, improving the life expectancy consequently. In the text below, top 10 facts about life expectancy in Ukraine are presented.

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Ukraine

  1. Non-infections diseases, not war or famine, are the largest cause of death in the country. Sixty-three percent of all deaths are caused by cardiovascular diseases followed by cancer-related deaths at 15 percent and chronic respiratory diseases as the third largest problem that causes 2 percent of deaths.
  2. Ukraine has a low rate of obesity. Around 79 percent of Ukrainians get the proper amount of exercise in their life and only one in four people suffer from obesity. In comparison to some other countries, such as the United States, this is a relatively low number. Although heart diseases are common, unhealthy weight is not their primary cause.
  3. People in the country often live up to their seventies, but the gender-gap in lifespan is high. Ukrainian women reach 77 years on average, whereas men reach 68 years on average. This nine-year lifespan gap among genders is almost double higher than the five-year disparity seen in most Western countries. As men consume three times as much alcohol as women do and are over four times as likely to smoke, bad-habits provide likely explanations for this occurrence.
  4. Smoking and lung cancer that is mainly directly caused by smoking, are declining among men. At the start of the 2000s, over 60 percent of Ukrainian men were smokers, while only 10 percent of women smoke. Over the past 16 years, smoking’s popularity has dropped to 49 percent among men in 2011. The rate of lung cancer fell by similar percentages over these years.
  5. The World Health Organization (WHO) and Ukrainian Ministry of Health have partnered to educate caregivers and inform citizens about health care. Two-day training courses have been delivered to 10,000 health professionals, greatly improving the quality of medical treatment.
  6. Access to medicine and primary medical care has also improved. Medical care in Ukraine used to be very expensive as out-of-pocket payments made up almost half of total payments. In 2017, Management Sciences for Health helped implement a state reimbursement program, reducing the prices of 157 brands that treat heart diseases, asthma, diabetes, and other serious conditions. Out of this number, 23 of the brands are available at little or no cost.
  7. School changes are reducing high-risk behavior. Starting in 2015, as a proactive measure to foster better habits, schools have changed curriculum to address disease risks and to provide healthier meal options.
  8. The Ukrainian government has doubled its AIDS response budget. In 2017, after a successful advocacy campaign, the government increased its response budget by 132 percent, providing over 107,000 people with life-saving medicine.
  9. As many as 178 clinics help opiate addicts recover. After international funding was cut in 2017, the Ukrainian government took over funding for opiate substitution clinics. Providing 10,000 recovering addicts with methadone and similar drugs as they are weaned off of narcotics, this makes the program largest of its kind in the region.
  10. Tuberculosis patients do not longer live in quarantine. Under the former systems, patients faced years of hospital quarantine until they were cured. Now PATH, medical nongovernmental organization, advocates for patent rights and provides technical and moral support to patients as they cope with the harsh side effects of their medication.

These 10 facts about life expectancy in Ukraine paint a very different, oddly more familiar, picture than the headlines do.

The primary causes of early death in the country are not famine and conflict, but the same ones that are found in many high-income countries: heart diseases and cancer.

Fortunately, these “old hat” problems have been resolved before and Ukraine, with the continuous work that is being done, will have similar success, given time.

– John Glade
Photo: Flickr

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict
2017 brought significant changes to Ukraine as 6.4 million Ukrainians rose above the country’s poverty line thanks to increases in minimum wage and a boost in social welfare programs. However, after five years of conflict with Russia and 39 percent of the country still living below the poverty line, the future of Ukraine’s poor remains uncertain. As the Ukraine-Russia conflict continues, aid from the U.S. and other countries is the only sure-fire way for those in Ukraine to find relief from the violence at hand.
Here are 10 facts about the conflict in Ukraine and its effect on this eastern European nation.  

Top 10 Facts about the Ukraine-Russia Conflict

  1. The Ukraine-Russia conflict began in 2013 when the former president of Ukraine, Viktor Yanukovych declined a resolution that would allow for Ukraine to engage in more economic activity with the European Union. After Yanukovych declined the deal, protests began in the capital city, Kiev. When police intervened, the number of protesters increased to contest the brutal treatment from the officers. Yanukovych fled the country in 2014 amid the turmoil, leaving Russia to occupy Ukraine soon after.
  2. Currently, the Ukrainian military is fighting rebels in eastern Ukraine who are being supported by Russia and who wish to annex and become part of Russia.
  3. The Ukraine-Russia conflict has killed more than 10,000 and wounded at least 23,000.
  4. Since 2014, fighting between the two countries has damaged more than 700 schools as well as 130 medical centers. Breaches in ceasefires have endangered more than 200,000 children who are often put in harm’s way and lack access to safe learning spaces.
  5. The front line of the war stretches 280 miles across Ukraine, blocking much of the country’s access to trade and supplies from neighboring countries and the U.N.
  6. In 2017, UNICEF, along with nongovernmental organizations and utility companies, worked to provide more than 962,000 people clean drinking water in both government-controlled and non-government-controlled areas. They also provided vouchers for cash and hygiene education to 160,000 people living closest to the front lines, 30,000 of them children.
  7. UNICEF offered psychosocial support to 82,000 children and caregivers within 15 km of the front line through community support centers. The organization also provided 700,000 children and their families with mine-risk education. Futhermore, the rehabilitation of 87 schools and kindergartens within 5 km of the front lines, provided by UNICEF aid, allowed 138,000 children to return to school, with teachers and aides receiving emergency training.
  8. In order to provide proper healthcare, education and shelter for its citizens, Ukraine requires consistent aid from the United States. Americans can alleviate the effects of the violence in Ukraine by contacting their congresspeople and representatives and asking that they support the International Affairs Budget. Ongoing support from the U.S. will help to improve the conditions of those in the middle of the Ukraine-Russia conflict.
  9. USAID supported elections in 600 communities throughout Ukraine, with many of these townships experiencing their first true election process.
  10. For 2018, Ukraine requires $23.6 million in aid in order to properly improve the country’s predicament. The top three main areas of need are:
    • Access to clean water, sanitation services and hygiene products ($13,619,000)
    • Child protection from violence ($3,200,000)
    • Education ($3,050,000)

Although there is still a long way to go in ending the Ukraine-Russia conflict some important steps have been made. The Ukraine government passed a healthcare reform law in October, which was signed by President Poroshenko, to improve the quality of care provided to its citizens and reduce corruption in the system. The work being done by UNICEF and USAID in Ukraine is helping to alleviate the damaging impact of the conflict. The next step will be working to end the Ukraine-Russia conflict once and for all.

– Jason Crosby
Photo: Flickr

Revolution of DignityIn November 2013, student protests in Ukraine turned into a full-fledged revolution against government corruption that has since been dubbed the Revolution of Dignity. Now, with a new government in place, the country is attempting to align itself with its European neighbors and become a stable democracy. With multiple roadblocks in the way, such as the annexation of Crimea by Russia, Ukraine will need to rely on its allies in order to achieve its goals.  

How the Revolution of Dignity Began

Ukraine’s Revolution of Dignity started out as a series of student protests to pressure the prime minister to sign an association agreement with the European Union. However, as the protests raged on, they became a catalyst for the rest of the country to express its discontent with larger issues with the government like the regime’s power grabs and rampant corruption.  

Despite these issues, protests only became a revolution when violence broke out between the government and protesters on Nov. 29, 2013. After this point, the goal became to overthrow the government and establish a more democratic state, one free of corruption and acting in the people’s best interests. In 2014, the people in overthrowing the government, reinstating the previous constitution and holding new elections in May.

While the revolution was successful, it was not without consequence. The destabilization in the country helped lead to the annexation of the southeastern Crimea region by the Russian Federation. On top of that, while the previous regime was friendly to the Russian government, the new one looked for a more independent governance supported by the E.U. and other western allies. With tough challenges ahead, Ukraine needed to look to allies for help.

What Allies Are Doing to Help

Since the protests initially started to pressure the Ukrainian president to sign an agreement with the E.U., it comes as no surprise that the E.U. is a key ally in helping Ukraine handle its political turmoil. One of the first things the newly elected government did was pass the Ukraine-European Union Associated Agreement and join the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area. These moves strengthen the nation’s economic, political and cultural ties with Europe through mutually beneficial relationships.  

While the U.S. is not as geographically close to Ukraine as the E.U., it has a vested interest in keeping the region stable and independent. Currently, over $204 million is planned in foreign aid for Ukraine. Among this, 33 percent is for peace and security, 32 percent goes toward human rights, democracy and governance, 29 percent is for economic development, and six percent goes toward health. With this aid, the U.S. hopes to keep Ukraine free of Russian influence and welcome them into the western world.

Through USAID, foreign aid is being used to help out local communities of Ukrainians.  In 2017, the organization helped 50 communities effectively manage resources and become sustainable without the central government. This not only fights corruption but also helps improve the everyday lives of Ukrainians who face instability in the face of recent changes.   

Continuing Progress in Ukraine

The aftermath of the Revolution of Dignity and the struggle with Russia has left many Ukrainians in a state of upheaval. With an uncertain future and violence a real possibility, it is key that allies help the country through this traumatic point in its history. The humanitarian impact of political uncertainty is often understated in the media, but it is real. While there are larger political reasons for Ukraine’s allies to help it, the aid these allies give to the Ukrainian people has an impact on the ground that can help save many lives.

– Jonathon Ayers
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents UkraineOften, the media misrepresents Ukraine in the news by focusing on the ongoing war in the country. This has been the case ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 that produced the conflict. Over the years, coverage of the war between the Ukrainian government and Russian separatists has dwindled but remains the focus whenever a story appears, either that or the dire situations and struggles the war has caused. While covering the war and its causes does a great job of highlighting the humanitarian crisis it has created by displacing thousands of Ukrainians who continue to struggle, it does little to portray their beautiful culture and country.

Whenever the media misrepresents Ukraine, due to its proximity to Russia and perhaps the association between the two countries, it is often thought that the two countries share very similar cultures and landscapes. Beyond this, media portrayal makes the country seem as though it is always in conflict and struggle. Neither of these assumptions is the case. Ukraine is a unique Slavic country, with its own language, customs, and a rich cultural history.

Ukraine’s Geography and Climate

Physically, Ukraine is unique in that it has a wider, warmer range of climates than most would assume. Spanning from the north where it borders Poland, Belarus and Russia, the climate is temperate, down to the Black Sea, where the climate is warm enough to be considered Mediterranean and winters can be quite mild. This means the country also holds a variety of stunning landscapes from the Carpathian mountains to beaches found in the city of Odessa.

Cultural History of Ukraine

Among these serene landscapes sit a variety of cities such as the capital of Kiev. With most cities and even towns in Ukraine, cultural history is honored by many historical buildings with stunning architecture that stand among the modern ones. While Ukrainians honor their past through these buildings, museums and classical art galleries, they don’t hesitate from making this legacy endure through experimental forms of cultural expression as well as by continuing with the classics. In the urban hubs of Ukraine’s larger cities, a variety of artistic expression can be found in performance art, literature, modern galleries, and through the long-standing tradition of Ukrainian folk art.

Ukrainian Hospitality

When focusing on the upheaval and chaos caused by the ongoing conflicts, the media misrepresents Ukraine by neglecting to display the generosity and friendliness of the country’s people even as they face these struggles. It is a part of the Ukrainian culture to be as generous and hospitable as possible to others. While Ukrainians are warm and care for their friends and family, they also treat their guests with equal care so much so that not offering food and drinks to a guest, especially while having some for yourself, is considered rather rude. No matter the occasion, Ukrainians always make sure their guests feel comfortable and at home by providing them with food, beverages and kindness even if they have little to offer.

Conclusion

In stark contrast with the media portrayal of Ukraine, the country and its people are unique in every way. The Ukrainians, their traditions and culture have to be contrasted with the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing war, rather than focusing solely on the war. The media has to show just how much Ukraine has been affected and how dire the situation is for those caught in the war zone. Ukraine is not just a country in constant conflict but one with a rich culture and history which will survive this conflict or any others it may face.

– Keegan Struble

Photo: Flickr

How the US Benefits from Foreign Aid to UkraineUkraine has faced ferocious political turmoil and civilian unrest in recent years, marked by war and corruption. Currently, it is crucial for Ukraine to continue its path to democracy. Congress must recognize how the U.S. benefits from humanitarian aid to Ukraine now more than ever. In the wake of recent cuts to foreign assistance in the 2018 and 2019 budget proposal, Ukraine’s stability depends on its American partnership.

For more than two-thirds of the twentieth century, Ukraine endured the oppressiveness of the Soviet Union. In 1991, Ukraine gained its independence, but it was plagued by deep-seated political corruption. This stronghold-tainted governance in Ukraine resulted in the imprisonment of its first female prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko in 2011 and the exiling of its fourth president Viktor Yanukovich in 2014.

Not only has Ukraine suffered instability and corruption in its political arena, but dirty politics have bled through its microeconomics as well. For example, patients may have access to medical treatment, but they oftentimes must bribe doctors in order to get the treatment they really need. This deep-rooted corruption which permeates all levels of society and government in Ukraine has historically threatened foreign aid and investment.

Unfortunately, foreign interest is tightening its grip on the power of the purse. In a recent breakthrough, Ukraine’s largest foreign backers, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the European Union (E.U.), announced they will not lend to Ukraine without serious progress on key reforms, including the fight against corruption. The IMF is comprised of 189 countries working to promote sustainable economic growth, trade and global poverty reduction.

The upside is that corruption levels have actually begun to decrease. In recent years, Ukraine has taken long-term steps to fight against corruption, including implementing anti-corruption agencies in the judiciary, public procurement and state-owned enterprises. These are some incentives that Congress can rely on when weighing in on how the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ukraine.

The U.S. has been the world’s only superpower since the fall of the Soviet Union. America as a superpower holds great influence, characterized by its far-reaching ability to exert influence on a global scale. So what are the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ukraine?

The U.S. has much to gain from coordinating with donors to Ukraine. Undeniably, foreign aid has been historically used in policymaking as a means to gain international leverage. Assisting Ukraine with humanitarian and foreign aid helps promote U.S. policy objectives. Ukraine is situated between Russia and the NATO-affiliated European countries, a geostrategic location for both the U.S. and the E.U.

Foreign aid to Ukraine will also support nuclear security, a strong interest to global safety, despite much of Ukraine’s energy resources now coming from Europe. Establishing Ukraine’s own energy supplies will prevent Russia from making weapons of Ukraine’s energy resources in the future.

Additionally, remedying Ukraine’s medical industry under the Global Health Initiative (GHI) will significantly improve disease containment. GHI aims to improve public health and strengthen U.S. national security through detecting, preventing and controlling global disease. Agencies such as PEPFAR provide direct service and assistance in Ukraine to maximize the medical quality and coverage of the national HIV/AIDS response.

Lastly, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ukraine by assisting Ukrainians who suffer from the War in Donbass. In March of 2014, Russia responded to Ukraine’s distressed political state by invading and annexing Crimea, an Eastern Ukrainian territory, which has caused war and hurt Ukraine’s economic growth. This has created political, economic and social conflict, and is a direct result of the War in Donbas, home to Ukraine’s major mining industry.

The Trump Administration recently approved a sale of lethal weapons to Ukraine. Political analysts believe that the public will see the sales as a principled signal that the United States will support its allies. This type of political leverage is a clear way the U.S. can benefit from its support to Ukraine. The move was made in light of ongoing requests by Ukrainian advocates as a result of the War in Donbass and supported by the fact that Ukraine was not the aggressor.

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Aid in Ukraine (OCHA) has calculated that nearly 4.4 million Ukrainians are affected by the conflict in Donbas and 3.4 million are in need of humanitarian aid and protection. Now, more than ever, Ukraine needs humanitarian aid.

Because funding for humanitarian aid has been cut in 2018 and is projected to be cut again in 2019, the World Food Bank can only assist those affected by the War in Donbass. Yet, the rest of Ukraine suffers, as 23 percent of households will go without adequate food. Despite this, people in Eastern Ukraine are suffering the most from displacement, lack of medical care and food and subjectivity to war.

As the world’s only superpower since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, which left Ukraine in disarray, the U.S. benefits from foreign aid to Ukraine because it will help build confidence in the people suffering in Ukraine and promote the democracy Ukraine has struggled to achieve. When democracy is encouraged in the world, it is always an interest of the U.S.

– Alex Galante 

Photo: Flickr

Ukraine has a history of attempts toward developing its infrastructure that have failed thus far. Infrastructure in Ukraine has great potential, but its development has been delayed for multiple reasons, including mismanagement during Soviet rule and periods of economic instability.

The local energy sector, in particular, is in a poor state. Earlier this year, radical politicians blockaded coal from the unrecognized People’s Republic of Donetsk region of Donbass from delivery to the rest of the country, exacerbating the issue of underdeveloped infrastructure in Ukraine. This threw the country into turmoil, as Ukraine does not have enough resources to serve its power plants without the coal, leading to a downward economic spiral and state of emergency.

Currently, Ukraine is working on modernizing its infrastructure with a focus on making it more energy efficient. Konstantin Grigorishin, owner of Energy Standard Group and vast assets in the energy sector of Ukraine, stated in an interview with RealClearEnergy, “We should not reconstruct the old infrastructure but introduce complete modernization of the Ukrainian energy system in line with the latest industry trends.”

The World Bank ranks infrastructure in Ukraine at 80 out of 160 countries in its annual Logistics Performance Index. This is mediocre at best, and its transportation systems are out of date with respect to speed, safety, and efficiency. To remedy this issue, Ukraine came out with a plan, Ukraine’s Transport Strategy 2030, that focuses an updating all its internal transportation systems until it is on par with the rest of Europe.

Ukraine is strategically located between the E.U., Russia and the Black Sea, forming a critical point for maritime trade. Its position, and the Dnipro River linking its coast to the interior of the country, makes it uniquely capable of both international and regional trade. The only thing required to make this trade plan possible is a viable route along the Black Sea and the Dnipro River, and this is where issues arise.

Infrastructure in Ukraine requires an investment of at least $2 billion from private investors for maritime trade to be a viable option. To increase investments, the Ministry of Infrastructure intends to establish private-public partnerships (PPPs) with businesses. The Ministry signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) on November 14, 2017, declaring their intention of mobilizing infrastructure development through PPPs.

The Minister of Infrastructure, Volodymyr Omelyan, has stressed the importance of these partnerships, stating, “Ukraine’s infrastructure needs are enormous. We need to crowd-in private investment to modernize the country’s infrastructure and upgrade it. IFC’s support and technical expertise will help ensure we are implementing the best possible solutions efficiently and transparently.”

Ukraine’s economy is relying on the success of these investments and the jobs they will create. With continued cooperation between the government and the PPPs, the country will steadily overcome its obstacles to infrastructure development.

– Kayla Rafkin

Photo: Flickr