Period Poverty in Ukraine
Period poverty is the inability to afford or access period supplies. It can also include the lack of education about periods and menstrual health or not having proper ways to dispose of used period products. This is a problem that affects countless menstruating individuals worldwide. Due to the ongoing conflict with Russia, the issue is very prevalent in Ukraine. With that being said, here are four myths and facts about period poverty in Ukraine.

4 Myths and Facts About Period Poverty in Ukraine

  • Myth: Men make up about 50% of Ukrainian refugees. Fact: Women and children account for almost 90% of Ukrainian refugees. Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine in February 2022, about 8 million refugees have fled the country. With 90% of Ukrainian refugees being women and children, (approximately 7.2  out of 8 million) women make up a large majority of people leaving their homes.
  • Myth: Periods are not a problem for female refugees. Fact: Female refugees often do not have access to underwear, period products or even a proper toilet. All of this can lead to health issues. Women who are fleeing Ukraine often do not stop to grab menstrual products. When leaving their homes, refugees often have to carry everything they can, and to some, period products are not at the forefront of their minds when they could be taking food, clothes and other necessities. Instead, when a woman starts menstruating she is left to use various unsanitary items, such as old cloth, rather than proper period products, which can cause many health issues such as bacterial skin infections, urinary tract infections, fungal and bacterial infections of the reproductive tract and more. As the Russian-Ukrainian war is a relatively recent conflict, specific research has yet to occur using Ukrainian refugees as the subject. However, a 2017 study conducted by Global One in refugee camps in Syria and Lebanon found that nearly 60% of female refugees did not have access to underwear. More than 60% of them had no sanitary products.
  • Myth: No one is doing anything about this problem. Fact: Many people around the world are mobilizing to help end period poverty for everyone, especially Ukrainian women. One great example of a company working to help end period poverty in Ukraine is HeyGirls, a company that Celia Hodson and Kate Smith founded in 2018 that sells period products. Every time someone purchases a HeyGirls period product, it donates the same amount to Ukrainian women in need. Since the crisis in Ukraine began many months ago, HeyGirls donated 22,000 products. One of the founders of HeyGirls said, “As soon as the situation with Ukraine unfolded, we knew we had to take action. It is hugely humbling to be able to provide our period products to Ukrainians in need. In a crisis, periods are often the last thing someone is thinking about, but you cannot stop the biological clock. To date, we have provided more than 20,000 period products for the border relief effort, through some of our community donation partners and local action groups. There is still much more to be done. Our whole aim is to see period poverty completely eradicated. Access to quality period products should be a right not a privilege; and more so in a humanitarian crisis.”
  • Myth: Sustainability does not matter when it comes to getting period products to those in need. Fact: Reusable period products will last longer and displaced women will need less of them in the long run. Another organization working against period poverty amongst Ukrainian refugees is Zero Waste Lviv, which is a part of Zero Waste Europe. Zero Waste Lviv works to produce and collect reusable period products to donate to Ukrainian refugees. Made from reusable materials, women are able to wash out their sanitary pads and use them again the next time they need one. This way, there will be less worry about where their next pad or tampon is going to come from.

A Better Future

Period poverty in Ukraine is a major issue. It is possible to end it or at least lessen it with efforts from individuals and companies who are working hand-in-hand to make a better tomorrow for the refugee women of Ukraine.

– Evelyn Breitbach
Photo: Flickr

higher education in Ukraine
The Russian invasion in 2022 has drastically impacted the Ukrainian education system; particularly higher education in Ukraine. Ukrainian universities attracted students from all over the world. There were students from Europe, North America, Asia, Africa and Latin American countries. These universities were popular among foreign students as they offered quality education at lower costs than Western universities. Ukrainian universities offered a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs in Ukrainian and English fields.

In Ukraine, 83% of young adults between 18 and 24 were enrolled in higher education at the time of the Russian incursion in 2022. Many Ukrainian educational institutions closed down and educational resources and supplies went to support the war effort or the Russian military confiscated them. As a result, higher education in Ukraine faced high disruption.

The number of available learning opportunities and opportunities for students to access high-quality education decreased because of the Russian invasion. Many higher education institutions in Ukraine are closed or destroyed and need more resources and infrastructure. In addition, this further disrupts students’ coursework because of the cancelation and relocation of the courses.

Allies Offer Stop-Gap Measures

Ukraine’s allies who have provided a wide range of assistance in response to the Russian invasion include the United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Germany, France, Italy, Poland, Sweden, Australia and Japan. The European Union has also assisted Ukraine, including humanitarian aid and economic support. The United States has also provided military aid to Ukraine. Additionally, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has set up a loan program and distributed $2.8 billion to help Ukraine recover from the economic damage of the crisis.

Plans for Rebuilding Higher Education in Ukraine

Ukraine continues to prioritize its higher academic institutions as it plans to rebuild investment efforts for when the Russian military incursion is over. Higher education in Ukraine collaborated with European higher education institutions to continue to fund and support student programs, according to the European University Association (EUA) briefing.

International cooperation from universities such as V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University and Ivan Franko National University of Lviv, along with initiatives such as the Twinning project Unity Initiative with 79 universities of the United Kingdom, has helped to foster international exchanges and support foreign students and teachers, according to European Associaton for International Education (EAIE). Through remote admission, flexible educational programs and the increasing range of educational programs taught in English, Ukraine’s institutions continue to strive for excellence despite the adversity. Ukraine is working in partnership with these institutions to ensure academic freedom and free speech and promote a safe and secure environment for learning.

Several universities and companies are supporting the Ukrainian government in its efforts to ensure academic freedom and free speech and promote a safe and secure learning environment. The EUA’s partnership with Ukrainian universities set in motion the following measures:

  • “Waiving EUA membership fees for all existing and new members during 2022,”
  • “Encouraging and expediting new membership applications from eligible Ukrainian institutions and organizations,”
  • “Providing access to services and events to non-member Ukrainian universities where appropriate,”
  • “Considering providing financial support for Ukrainian participation in EUA activities.”

More International Support

USAID, HP Inc., Microsoft and the Global Business Coalition for Education have partnered to provide 74,000 laptop devices to internally displaced Ukrainians and Ukrainian refugees in neighboring countries. HP Inc. has donated 5,000 laptops to support education for internally displaced Ukrainians, while Microsoft has donated software for the devices. The donation comes from USAID’s active engagement with the private sector to support Ukraine. Up to 2.8 million children have experienced displacement due to the war and a nationwide shortage of 175,000 laptops and 202,000 tablets. USAID’s Ukraine National Identity will distribute the laptops through Youth (UNITY) program in partnership with SpivDiia, a leading Ukrainian youth organization. While these laptops went to youth scholars, they provide remote learning and employment opportunities for the entire family.

The International Crisis Group (ICG) works with Ukraine and NGOs to implement recovery initiatives. The main focus of ICG’s work with Ukraine in 2022 has been to speed recovery efforts by providing a strategic framework for managing internally displaced persons (IDPs). This includes protecting the rights of Ukrainian citizens. Citizens of Ukraine and therefore, IDPs,  have a right to “pensions, medical care, social security and education, among other things.” They can also receive help finding jobs, locating free or subsidized housing, re-acquiring lost identity documents, reunifying their families and returning home.

Labster and AWS

The Ministry of Education & Science of Ukraine and Labster have partnered to provide free access to Labster’s award-winning virtual science simulations for an entire year to Ukrainian students and educators. This allows educators to integrate Labster into existing science courses and filter the more than 300 virtual lab simulations available by level of education, courses and topics for an efficient learning experience.

Amazon Web Services (AWS) is helping millions of displaced students in Ukraine continue their education amid war and displacement through free cloud computing resources, training and other educational initiatives. With more than 3 million refugees fleeing their homes due to conflict, many educational institutions have turned to AWS to re-establish learning opportunities. AWS is offering cloud computing credits to 22 universities to enable them to quickly migrate critical educational resources to the cloud, helping to ensure remote learning can continue uninterrupted.

These initiatives’ future impact on Ukraine’s poverty will likely be significant. By equipping students and educators with the technology, resources and training they need to access quality education, these initiatives will help to bridge the gap between the affluent and the less privileged. This, in turn, could help reduce poverty levels and inequality. In addition, the initiatives could also help to cultivate a highly-skilled workforce that can help to drive economic growth and development. Finally, increased access to quality education can also help improve Ukrainian citizens’ health, and social and economic well-being.

– Jeannine Proctor
Photo: Flickr

Ukrainian health care facilities
The COVID-19 pandemic greatly impacted Ukrainians and Ukrainian health care facilities and safety issues only escalated with Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022.

Ukrainian Health Care Facilities Under Fire

Since Russia’s invasion, the World Health Organization (WHO) has confirmed 715 attacks on Ukrainian health care facilities, creating a shortage of proper medical care and supplies for Ukrainians. The Washington Post reported that Russian soldiers destroyed nearly all of the health infrastructure in the recaptured territories. This has left thousands of Ukrainians, mainly in seized villages, without necessary health care access.

Low Vaccination Rates, Disease Outbreaks and Health Concerns

At the beginning of the war, nearly 60% of Ukrainians were unvaccinated against COVID-19, with cases at a record peak. The Russian attacks have limited access to vaccinations, COVID-19 testing and treatment. In addition, crowded bomb shelters and border crossings have created the perfect conditions for extreme COVID-19 outbreaks. This would overextend the already limited capacities of Ukrainian health care facilities. Millions of Ukrainians that rely on regular doses of life-saving medication, such as insulin, are unable to access the medication necessary for survival. Hospital closures also put thousands of pregnant mothers in extreme danger. They end up in extenuating circumstances without access to health teams, checkups or delivery services.

Earlier in 2022, WHO estimated that 15% of these Ukrainian births would result in complications that would need skilled medical care: a feat difficult with limited medicine and oxygen access. Outbreaks of other diseases, such as Polio, HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis, pose great threats to Ukrainian lives during the war. The rampant misinformation regarding vaccines in Ukraine contributed to a low immunization rate, making Ukraine more susceptible to disease outbreaks.

Relief Organizations

Relief organizations have attempted to combat this issue by focusing their efforts on reinstating emergency medical care in seized areas, yet they face a number of challenges. Land mines and leftover military weaponry still threaten many recaptured areas. There is also an extreme shortage of health care workers, with many worried about entering dangerous areas. Finally, targeted attacks on Ukrainian energy sources have created mass blackouts throughout the country, leaving thousands of Ukrainians without heat or running water. This makes seeking health care and remaining healthy increasingly difficult.

Also, hospitals have canceled all nonessential procedures and patient records are unavailable due to internet outages. Blackouts also inhibit proper hygiene, as running water is often inaccessible. Infections run rampant due to poor hygiene, increasing the urgency for health care. Doctors must perform emergency surgeries in freezing temperatures while using headlamps as light sources due to frequent power outages.

Limited Resources

Limited resources make it increasingly difficult for relief organizations to provide aid. The Kyiv City Charity Foundation Food Bank is operating actively to provide food for Ukrainians, yet they have lacked proper food supplies since Ukrainian plants had to shut down production. This food bank, along with others in Ukraine, has received aid and supplies from foreign organizations such as Save the Children and the U.N. World Food Programme (WFP).

WFP recently received a $50 million donation from the United States, which has gone towards providing food for Ukrainians. It plans to assist more than 3 million people through these funds, with three operation locations established throughout Ukraine. WFP purchased most of the food in Ukraine to help their economy, but it has also created hubs in Poland to safely distribute food. It has been difficult for these organizations to anticipate needs throughout Ukraine as food insecurity and supply limitations change daily, but relief organizations have been able to help limit the extreme circumstances in Ukraine through aid.

Rebuilding Ukrainian Health Care Facilities

According to Deputy Minister of Health Oleksiy Yaremenko, damaged health infrastructure alone will cost at least $1 billion to fix, so rebuilding Ukrainian health care facilities is a lofty but necessary ambition. Along with foreign aid, internal organizations have helped Ukraine. Ukrainian civil society organizations have risen to the challenge, meeting the needs of hospitals throughout the country. The Alliance for Public Health (APH) provides limited service in most regions, including occupied areas.

To combat shortages, APH delivered 140 metric tons of medical supplies to Ukrainian hospitals between March 23 and April 6 alone. Its mobile clinics serve as transportation of humanitarian aid into conflict zones and evacuation vans. 100% LIFE, Ukraine’s largest organization for people with HIV, distributed an initial delivery of 18 million doses of antiretroviral medication, enough to cover a six-month supply for all people with HIV on first-line treatment.

The lack of health care provisions for Ukrainians has caused an increase in sickness and casualties. However, the presence of foreign aid and relief organizations has alleviated the damage. As the war continues, the lack of Ukrainian health care facilities and resources will likely become more harmful to the protection of Ukrainians and the rebuilding of society.

– Mariam Abaza
Photo: Flickr

Charities in UkraineSince the beginning of the war in Ukraine in February 2022, poverty has increased with 25% of Ukrainians now living in poverty. According to a recent study by the World Health Organization and Ukraine’s Ministry of Health in 2022, 22% of people could not obtain the medication they need. About 7% of the country’s existing homes are destroyed, and millions of people are currently without electricity and water. The government of Ukraine is asking for help from international organizations and charities, as 60% of Ukraine’s budget is currently going toward defense and military expenses. Here are five charities in Ukraine.

5 Charities in Ukraine During the War

  1. AIDRom. The Inter-Church AID Department Romania has helped refugees and asylum seekers since 1991, in collaboration with the Christian Churches of Romania. The charity has offered counseling and legal help since the start of the Ukrainian refugee crisis. The charity is providing public assistance and is donating vouchers for food and hygiene, helping more than 2,000 Ukrainian people who are crossing the Romanian border. AIDRom is providing medical assistance and integration of the culture. They are implementing projects for children in order to respect their culture, such as the delivery of gifts for St. Nick’s Day which is a common tradition in Ukraine. In December 2022 they organized a Christmas performance where refugee children from Ukraine sang traditional songs of both Ukraine and Romania. This project helped 30,000 Ukrainian refugees.
  2. CARE. CARE is another charity operating in Ukraine, supporting vulnerable people, particularly women. It has partnerships in Poland, Romania, Slovenia and Ukraine. Volunteers are offering food, water, sleeping gear and protection from violence.  The latest report from December 19, 2022, highlighted that CARE has helped 605,000 people with food, 214,000 people with basic hygiene needs and water and 43,000 people with shelter. The organization also provided school kits to 7,200 kids in 2022.
  3. Samaritan’s Purse. Samaritan’s Purse is a Christian organization that started its work in helping people in 1970. It is working in partnership with more than 3,000 churches in Ukraine, transporting food and non-food supplies to poor people. During the first year of its work, the charity helped almost 12 million people and donated 100 million pounds of food. Samaritan’s Purse did 35 airlift missions, delivering more than 30 million liters of water, medical items and hygiene kits. They collaborated with the hospitals in Lviv, helping 23,500 patients. The organization helped 2,000 families with electricity, providing them with stoves and firewood.
  4. Doctors without Borders. Doctors without Borders (DWB) is an organization that provides medical tools and support to disadvantaged people, affected by conflicts, exclusion and natural disasters. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, Doctors without Borders started to deliver primary health care tools and certified doctors. DWB’s focus is on surgery and emergencies, but the organization also delivers medicine for people with persistent illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease. DWB is active in 13 Ukrainian cities, delivering 408 metric tons of medicinal equipment with the support of more than 800 volunteers.
  5. DobrobatDobrobat is a charity operating in Ukraine that focuses its work on reconstruction. The charity does not repair entirely the damaged structures or houses in Ukraine, but their volunteers specialize in rapid recovery, which is the initial reconstruction, such as repairing wrecked roofs and broken windows and walls. Its purpose is to ensure that people have a shelter that protects them from the cold winter. In December 2022 the organization completed construction work at 35 sites, with the help of 430 volunteers across Ukraine.

Final Thoughts

These are just five of the numerous charities that are operating in Ukraine during the war. They are providing psychological and medical support as well as food and water supplies to those who need it the most.

– Elena Luisetto
Photo: Flickr

Increase in Child Poverty
The Russia-Ukraine war has devastated the world since the invasion began in February 2022. It has halted economies and supply chains and as recent findings have shown, the war has caused a sharp increase in poverty. As a UNICEF report found, poverty will likely increase significantly in countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a result of the war between Ukraine and Russia. Children bear the brunt of the increase in poverty, as an estimated 4 million children will likely end up in poverty – a 19% increase since 2021. Here is some information about the increasing child poverty in Ukraine.

The Cause of Poverty

The Eastern Europe and Central Asia region (ECA) is dependent on Russia and Ukraine for many essential goods and sources of income, such as food, fertilizer, trade and tourism. For the last two decades, the region has been growing economically. However, several recent economic crises have stifled economic growth. The war followed the 2020 pandemic, which brought about an increase in economic instability and market disruption. The war has exacerbated these issues and has also caused increases in the price of fuel and food. This has caused a decrease in disposable income and social and economic protection from the government, all of which have left families with children disproportionally impacted.

In addition, since the beginning of the war, more than 3 million people have escaped war-torn Ukraine. Half of these refugees are children, with the U.N. estimating that one child per second becomes a refugee of the war. As these refugees flee to nearby European countries, they are much more susceptible to falling into poverty.

Effects of Child Poverty

Along with an increase in child poverty, UNICEF reported a higher rate of infant mortality, estimating that an additional 4,500 children will die before their first birthday in 2022. UNICEF also reported that more children are likely to drop out of school, with an estimated two in 2,000 children likely to miss a year of school in 2022.

In addition, poor children are much more likely to feel the impacts of fuel poverty, hunger, abuse and child marriage. Child poverty also impacts a child’s future, as one in three children who grow up in poverty will continue to live in poverty for the rest of their lives. This will continue to lead to a cycle of generational poverty that will affect children and families long after the war ends.

Fighting Poverty in the ECA

Child poverty in Ukraine significantly impacts children, their families and the economy. However, it is possible to prevent and mitigate child poverty in Ukraine. In its report, UNICEF outlines a framework that, if implemented, could significantly reduce child poverty rates and protect families from financial distress. The framework includes introducing price regulation on food items for families. It also calls for expanding social systems, such as universal cash benefits and social assistance to families with children. In addition, UNICEF plans to continue highlighting the importance of health and medical care to infants, mothers and children.

Moreover, UNICEF has partnered with several EU countries to launch the EU Child Guarantee. This initiative aims to decrease child poverty and provide opportunities enabling children to succeed in adulthood. Some options include free early childhood education, free healthcare and adequate housing. By providing these opportunities, the EU hopes to ensure equal opportunities for all and stop the cycle of poverty at its roots.

– Padma Balaji
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Ukraine
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022 and has resulted in thousands of deaths and casualties on both sides. The attacks left 8 million people displaced in Ukraine by May 2022 and 7.8 million Ukrainians fleeing the country as of November 2022. With more than 250 days of the invasion, Ukrainians are likely to live with a blackout until at least March 2022, the EU will give a further £2.2 billion to help with the reconstruction of the country and the Word Health Organization (WHO) warned that Ukraine’s health system is “facing its darkest days in the war so far.” All of the factors have undoubtedly increased the poverty rate in Ukraine to 25% and future estimates it could be rising to 55% or more by the end of 2023.

Increase in Poverty

The damage that the war inflicted on infrastructure and the economy has obviously increased Ukraine’s poverty. The unemployment rate has increased and is currently at 35% and over months some workers have seen their incomes reduced by as much as 50%. World Bank Eastern Europe Regional Country Director Arup Banerji stated that “As winter really starts biting, certainly by December or January, there may be another internal wave of migration, of internally displaced persons.” As a result of the displacement of more people from their houses and fewer jobs available, the poverty rate in Ukraine will worsen as Russia’s invasion continues.

COVID-19

The WHO and Ukraine’s Ministry of Health announced that 22% of people in the country are struggling to access essential health care and COVID-19 spreading with 23,000 new cases reported since October 2022. With a low vaccination rate minus booster, millions of Ukrainians are not immune to it which has therefore led to an increase in cases. UNICEF delivered 2.3 million doses of the vaccine through the U.S. government for distribution in 23 regions of Ukraine. Recently, the Biden administration wrote a letter to Congress requesting $38 billion to help Ukraine with efforts, with $9 billion going towards COVID-19 vaccine access and long-term research.

Infrastructure Damage

Within recent weeks, Russian missiles and drones have struck 40% of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure that have created blackouts across the country. Eighty percent of Kyiv residents have been deprived of water and 350,000 homes have lost all power. The World Bank believes that Ukraine needs $349 billion to reconstruct the country. The process of cleaning and clearing explosive remains of war will need $11 billion in the next two years and $62 billion in the next 10 years. Other costs such as the rebuilding of roads, schools and hospitals will need more funding and could take away from the government supporting residents then lead others into poverty, increasing the rate after the ending of the invasion.

Solutions

Ukraine has received military assistance from other countries, the U.S. is the largest provider having committed $19.3 billion since the start of the Biden Administration. The Disaster Emergency Committee has helped 248,000 people in six months with food aid and opened 200 centers for displaced people. Similarly, the British Red Cross launched its appeal and described how it would use people’s donations. For example, £20 “could provide five blankets to families taking shelter.” Since its launch, the organization has helped 5 million people with emergency relief and 8 million with access to clean water.

Looking Ahead

The poverty rate in Ukraine has worsened significantly as it faces the impact of war. The country will need a complete rebuild that could cost more than $500 billion and leaves people in life-altering situations without homes and jobs. Russia’s invasion does not have an end date, it will continue to damage the economy and more importantly ruin the lives of Ukrainians.

– Mohamed Hassan
Photo: Flickr

Ukraine’s Energy Crisis
As Russia continues to wage war on its eastern neighbor, the deterioration of Ukraine’s energy sector and infrastructure has taken a turn for the worst. With a lack of access to electricity and heating, Ukrainians have to endure a particularly cold and harsh winter. Ukrainian children, in particular, are vulnerable to winter temperatures because they target their physical conditions, psychological well-being and educational opportunities.

A Cold Winter

UNICEF predicts that temperatures in Ukraine may drop to -4 degrees Fahrenheit this winter. Coupled with the fact that Russia has destroyed more than 40% of Ukraine’s power infrastructure, residents are living in freezing conditions and constant attacks this wintertime. In fact, UNOCHA announced in November 2022 that Ukraine’s current energy system was only capable of meeting 70% of citizen demands.

Considering that “45% of Kyiv currently doesn’t have access to electricity,” educational and medical facilities also face extreme issues. Online learning is facing disruption as households lack access to electricity and medical facilities are facing challenges as damaged power sources and impaired water systems hinder hospitals from providing crucial services.

Impacts on Children

Ukrainian children’s physical and emotional well-being are at high risk during this time of violence and energy destruction. According to Catherine Russell, Executive Director of UNICEF, “Millions of children are facing a bleak winter huddled in the cold and dark, with little idea of how or when respite may arrive.” UNICEF reports that Ukraine’s energy crisis is particularly dire for the 1.2 million displaced Ukrainian children, who not only lack access to electricity and heating but also do not have permanent shelter.

In addition to children’s physical conditions, Ukrainian children’s psychosocial well-being is an extremely unstable situation. Approximately 1.5 million Ukrainian children may be susceptible to depression and other anxiety-related disorders. Furthermore, a lack of health services in war-torn areas prevents children from accessing the physical and emotional help they need during this time.

Help From Abroad

Fortunately, in light of Russia’s destruction of energy infrastructure, numerous international organizations have attempted to remedy the situation. UNICEF, in particular, is playing a significant role in mitigating Ukraine’s energy crisis, providing healthcare facilities to almost 4.9 million Ukrainian women and children. It also provided drinking water to more than 4.2 million needy residents and created mental health services that have reached more than 2.5 million children. Its financial assistance—in the form of direct cash transfers to households or funding for critical services in Ukraine at large—has also supported Ukraine’s continuing needs.

To combat the freezing temperatures, Ukraine and other organizations have set up “heating points,” warm tents that offer shelter and water to residents across the nation. These emergency initiatives take place in train stations and schools throughout Ukraine, helping millions of displaced households in need of shelter, Foreign Policy reports.

An Impending Future

While numerous governments and organizations continue to alleviate Ukraine’s energy crisis, Russia’s attacks still have deep-rooted consequences. Many researchers argue that Ukraine not only needs to increase its energy demand, but the country has to reinvent its energy infrastructure entirely. As such, Ukraine would need to lessen its dependence on fossil fuels and create more modern and sustainable energy systems. For now, however, Ukraine will continue to face a challenging winter devoid of electricity and heating for millions.

– Emma He
Photo: Flickr

Women in Ukraine
Prior to the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, women in Ukraine faced several gender-related disparities. Households in the nation that women head are more likely to be food insecure, with 37.5% experiencing moderate or severe levels of food insecurity compared to 20.5% of male-headed households. Women in Ukraine also faced a 22% gender pay gap and a 32% pension gap, leaving them more economically vulnerable to the impacts of war.

The War

As a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the cost of living is increasing at a rapid rate, creating an ongoing crisis in the nation. The war’s disruptions to oil and gas supplies and staple food commodities such as wheat, corn and sunflower oil have further propelled the crisis. These disruptions have created rising prices of food and fuel. A new U.N. Women report provides insight into how the Ukraine War and its global impacts on food and energy are affecting women disproportionately, making them one of the war’s most vulnerable groups.

The women who have stayed in Ukraine have become their households’ primary providers, as many of their partners have gone to the front. They face increasing financial pressures as securing unemployment is very difficult with the destruction of infrastructure and businesses. Along with this, as a result of rising food prices and shortages, women have reported reducing their own food intake to provide more for other family members, thus putting their own nutritional needs at risk. Along with this, increasing energy prices have forced families to resort to using low-tech fossil fuels which expose women cooking and doing various tasks in households to significant amounts of air pollution. The U.N. Women estimates that the use of low-tech fossil fuels in homes kills around 3.2 million people each year globally, making this a severe health risk.

The U.N. Women also reports that school-aged girls in Ukraine are at a higher risk of having to leave school and enter marriage as another way for families to make ends meet during this tumultuous time. This not only places them at an educational disadvantage for future opportunities but also puts their physical and emotional well-being at risk.

Pregnant Women

The U.N. estimates that around 265,000 women in Ukraine were pregnant when the invasion began. With this, the war caused serious disruptions in maternal health care. Expectant mothers have very limited access to doctors and the medical supplies needed to give birth, making it a potentially dangerous process. As a result of the physical and emotional stress expectant mothers are facing, there has been a rise in premature births and complications.

One group working to rectify this growing reproductive health crisis is the United Nations Population Fund (UNPFA). This group has created a mobile maternity health unit in which they go into remote communities and places that have limited access to healthcare due to the invasion. Through this unit, they provide women with health services and help deliver babies safely.

Increased Gender-Based Violence

One of the biggest concerns of the U.N. Women for women in Ukraine is the rise in gender-based violence, specifically increases in sexual violence. As a result of food insecurity, women have reported facing encouragement to use transactional sex for food and survival. There have also been increases in sexual exploitation at the hands of the opposing military and threats of human trafficking amid worsening conditions, according to the U.N. Women report.

Displacement

Women fleeing Ukraine are facing additional wartime burdens. A survey highlighting displacement patterns from the International Organization for Migration (IOM) found that women account for 81% of all refugees and 83% of women are traveling with at least one child. With this, one in 10 women is traveling alone. These women are more likely to face harassment and gender-based violence and trafficking. The U.N. Women also reports that for every 100 Ukrainian women, there are 77 children under the age of 11. This indicates that women are bearing a significant extra burden when it comes to childcare, and thus require a greater need for shelter and access to basic necessities.

Groups Working to Rectify These Inequities

Many often do not pay attention to women’s voices and needs in wartime, despite them being a part of the most vulnerable groups. Organizations such as U.N. Women have been working diligently to shine a light on the challenges facing women in Ukraine and to provide solutions.

After conducting multiple different studies through surveying and other methods, U.N. Women is now providing recommendations for the best practices for protecting and enhancing the livelihood of women in Ukraine and refugees. As women bear distinct and additional burdens during times of war, the organization is arguing that they must have representation in all decision-making platforms on de-escalation, conflict prevention and mitigation. Along with this, it is crucial to ensure that data, evidence and women’s voices inform humanitarian responses, including budgeting, programming and service delivery.

While the Ukraine war is affecting everyone in Ukraine, it is not affecting everyone equally. It is important to recognize the needs of the most vulnerable groups when moving forward with response efforts, thus more efficiently providing services where there is the greatest amount of need. As groups like U.N. Women continue to highlight the struggles of women in Ukraine and refugees, it is important that influential nations such as the United States back the effort as well.

– Emma Cook
Photo: Flickr

Human Rights Violations in Ukraine
The international laws of war dictate what nations can and cannot do in accordance with human rights during times of conflict or war. All parties involved in a conflict have to abide by international humanitarian law, including the Geneva Conventions of 1949, The First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions and Customary International Law. The Geneva Conventions of 1949 resulted in the creation of four treaties and three additional protocols that establish international legal standards for humanitarian treatment in war. The First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions aims to help strengthen the protection of victims of armed conflicts and place limits on the way of fighting wars. Finally, Customary International Law holds nations accountable to the international obligations that establish international practices such as those laid out in the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Social and Economic Costs

Laws of war prohibit willful killing, acts of sexual violence, torture, the inhumane treatment of captured combatants and civilians and pillaging and looting. Armed forces that have effective control over an area have to follow the international law of occupation and international human rights laws. If a nation violates the laws of war, then they are responsible for committing war crimes. With this, the commanders of the occupying forces who know or suspect such crimes are taking place, but fail to act are criminally liable as a matter of command responsibility.

Conflicts such as the one going on in Ukraine cause immeasurable social and economic costs. These include loss of life, destruction of infrastructure, human capital, political instability and uncertain economic growth and investments.

Ukrainians will feel these effects for years to come, especially with a future of economic uncertainty in the country. This conflict however does not just impact those living in Ukraine economically, but worldwide as well with soaring rates of inflation. Within the first three months of the invasion, an estimated 51.6 million people fell into poverty living on or below $1.90 per day. Along with this, 20 million people fell to the poverty line of living on $3.20 per day. The continuous effects of Russia’s invasion are not Ukraine’s burden alone, but trickling into other nations as well.

Current State of Ukraine

Since the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, several bodies such as the United Nations and Human Rights Watch have been carefully monitoring the conflict for human rights violations in Ukraine and war crimes. The Human Rights Watch has documented several cases of Russian military forces committing war crime violations against civilians in occupied areas such as Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Kyiv. Russian soldiers were a part of repeated acts of sexual violence, unlawful executions and looting of civilian property. With this, Human Rights Watch has documented multiple reports on the deliberate cruelty towards Ukrainian civilians.

In September 2022, an U.N.-appointed independent committee of human rights investigators confirmed that war crimes have been committed in Ukraine. Most of the committee’s work has centered around investigations in Kyiv, Chernihiv, Kharkiv and Sumy. These are the regions where the most serious allegations of war crime violations against Russia have occurred.

Those Working to Help

There are currently multiple different bodies working diligently to prevent human rights violations in Ukraine and make sure that people have access to life necessities. Ukrainian officials suspect that more than 15,000 war crimes have taken place since Russia invaded. That makes humanitarian aid even more crucial for those who are still in the nation and refugees.

In May 2022, the United States, the European Union and the United Kingdom announced the establishment of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group (ACA). The ACA aims to reinforce accountability for war crimes and it seeks to advance the commitments made by the European Union, the United States and the U.K. They are also making it their mission to support the war crimes units of the Office of Prosecutor General of Ukraine (OPG) in its investigation and prosecution of conflict-related crimes.

Along with this, they are working to bring together multinational experts to provide strategic advice and operational assistance to OPG specialists and other stakeholders in areas such as collection, preservation of evidence, operational analysis, investigation of conflict-related sexual violence, crime scenes and forensic investigations. Accountability is key when human rights are at stake. If there is no accountability then nations in conflict can commit disastrous war crimes as they please. This group aims to demonstrate international support and solidarity for Ukraine, along with holding those taking part in the conflict accountable for their actions against civilians.

USAID Helping Ukraine

Along with the efforts of the Atrocity Crimes Advisory Group, in July 2022, USAID announced it would provide $74 million in aid to Ukraine. This brings the total amount of USAID spending to help Ukraine to $1 billion. With the continued support of the U.S. and other nations, humanitarian organizations have been able to assist around 11 million people. Their continued efforts are crucial in ensuring the protection of human rights in Ukraine and that Ukrainians are safe from war crimes. The additional funding from USAID will provide emergency hygiene items, health care, mental health care, shelter and cash assistance to Ukrainians. It is also important to recognize that vulnerable populations disproportionately bear the burdens of war. As an acknowledgment of this, the funding will also aim to support those who are within these populations to help meet their life-saving needs.

The continuous commitment of wealthy nations to support humanitarian aid is detrimental to preventing human rights violations in Ukraine and ensuring that nations are held accountable for war crimes. The actions now set a precedent for conflicts in the future. Therefore, nations like the U.S. should continue to set an example of what humanitarian aid should look like, thus creating a model for others to follow.

– Emma Cook
Photo: Flickr

Sexual Violence in Ukraine 
Sexual violence is a disturbing result of war and genocide because of its use as a form of torture and ethnic cleansing. Ever since Russia invaded Ukraine, sexual violence against Ukrainian citizens has dramatically increased. The nature of the sexual violence that Russian military personnel has inflicted justifies its status as a war crime.

Sexual Violence in Ukraine

Sexual violence during times of war is systematic. Russian military personnel systematically use sexual violence as a way to further oppression in Ukraine. Pramila Patten, a U.N. special representative on sexual violence, denounced rape and sexual violence at the hands of Russian troops by calling it a “military strategy” and a “deliberate tactic to dehumanize the victims.”

Under certain circumstances, rape and other different types of sexual violence can be considered war crimes and crimes against humanity under the Rome Statute.

Gita Sahgal of Amnesty International told BBC News, “Rape is often used in ethnic conflicts as a way for attackers to perpetuate their social control.” This seems to be what Russian troops are doing by sexually abusing Ukrainians. Russian troops want to establish their dominance as well as amplify Russian culture throughout Ukraine. A U.N. report has revealed that victims of sexual violence in Ukraine are between the ages of four and 80 years old. There are also reports that family members had to watch as Russian troops sexually assaulted their loved ones. The UN has confirmed that there are “more than a hundred cases of rape or sexual assault.”

Moreover, there are allegations that Russian commanders knew about sexual violence taking place and that some commanders even ordered their soldiers to rape Ukrainians. In the same vein, it is also important to acknowledge the white rag tactic. Russian soldiers told some women to hang a white rag outside their homes. The soldiers would leave and later return to the homes that had the white rags to rape the women.

A young Chechen soldier took Anna, who is 50 years old, from her home and raped her in a house close by while soldiers shot her husband who died a few days later. Anna told the BBC in an interview “They would get high and they were often drunk. Most of them are killers, rapists and looters. Only a few are OK.”

Sexual violence during a time of conflict is extremely traumatizing and can cause severe psychological issues for surviving victims. It is imperative that sexual violence victims in Ukraine have access to medical treatment and psychological support. Due to displacement because of the ongoing war, however, it has been extremely difficult for victims to get access to these resources.

Relief Efforts

There are many organizations and networks working tirelessly to aid sexual violence victims in Ukraine. Sylini is one network that is working to help sexual violence victims get access to proper medical treatment by covering medical costs. Since Russia first invaded Ukraine, Sylini has helped eight anonymous women by paying for the cost of medical resources such as STD tests, psychological support, and even dental surgery. At least 18 surviving victims have contacted Sylini from May to June 2022 for assistance and support.

SEMA Ukraine is another organization helping sexual violence victims in different parts of the country. This network consists of former sexual assault survivors; Russian military personnel made some of them victims in 2014. One of the main duties of SEMA Ukraine is to travel to small villages to meet with sexual violence victims to hear their stories and provide counseling.

Many often overlook sexual violence during times of war and it rarely gets as much attention as it should, however, the war in Ukraine is bringing more attention to the issue. Additionally, the efforts of Sylini and SEMA Ukraine are ensuring that victims receive the help they need in the aftermath.

– Yonina Anglin
Photo: Flickr