Ukraine's IT and software
After the fall of the Soviet Union in the 1990s, many believed Ukraine would climb quickly up the economic ladder. Until recently, government corruption and political instability kept the country in a state of economic stagnation. Over the last two decades, however, the nation’s information technology and software development sectors grew rapidly, helping immensely to boost Ukraine’s economy.

Ukraine Becomes a Major Player

People did not fully recognize the potential of Ukraine’s IT and software industries until 2011 after service exports nationwide exceeded $1 billion. This large revenue also helped the country gain its rank as the 26th most attractive country for outsourced tech services. The following year, the Ukrainian Hi-Tech Initiative conducted a report which ranked Ukraine among the top 10 countries with the most certified IT specialists. Out of the 250,000 Ukrainian IT specialists employed in 2014, over 40,000 of them were certified. Ukraine continues to gain global attention and its rapidly growing IT sector made it one of the most attractive nations for investors and venture capitalists.

The Ukrainian Venture Capital and Private Equity Association recorded that between 2013 and 2018, venture capitalist companies invested $630 million into Ukrainian tech start-ups. Lviv, another major IT city in Ukraine’s Innovation District IT park recently received a $160 million grant. The generous grant provided 14,000 new workplaces in the park. Among the workplaces were tech-labs, hotels and restaurants. This expansion created an array of employment opportunities, which helped to boost Ukraine’s economy even more.

The successful growth of these industries had so much impact that Ukrainian universities had to create specialized degree programs to cater to them exclusively. As of 2018, there were 13,836 students studying at universities with tech programs. Out of the 13,836 students, 5,000 will graduate with the skill-set needed to become IT professionals in Ukraine’s cluster of tech-centered cities. The IT Future Survey from 2018 indicated that 82 percent of all Ukrainian students wanted to pursue a career in IT or software development. To be specific, in 2017, the Lviv IT cluster launched four new tech programs including robotics, cybersecurity, business analysis and life safety. In addition, the cluster also opened four new innovation labs for IT students. The labs should help students master their skill sets in AI tech, machine learning, data science and an array of other cutting-edge technologies.

Outsourcing Services and Real Estate Demand Boosts Ukraine’s Economy

In recent years, the demand for Ukraine’s IT and software services increased exponentially. Consequently, this creates a demand for firms to buy real estate to house their growing businesses. A Cushman & Wakefield property market analysis indicated that in the first half of 2017, IT companies accounted for 50 percent of all office transactions in the city of Kyiv. Tech companies also account for 60 percent of all office rentals in Kyiv’s Gulliver Business Center, a major hub for the city’s tech industry. Other Ukrainian tech-hub cities like Lviv, Odesa and Kharkiv helped boost Ukraine’s economy through these same areas.

Ukrainian tech companies do a majority of their business through outsourcing services. A report conducted by the investment firm AVentures Capital indicated that at least 500 firms provided tech services to the global market. As of 2018, software development became the second largest export service in the world with Ukraine being responsible for 20 percent of those exports globally. With a current market growth of 26 percent, and between 160,000 and 172,000 Ukrainians being software and IT professionals, Ukraine boasts the largest and fastest growth of these industries in all of Europe. Experts speculate that services of this nature are well on their way to becoming the number one export in the country.

Ukraine’s IT and Software Sectors Create Jobs

This growth helped boost Ukraine’s economy and has also provided Ukrainian people with employment opportunities from clients abroad without the direct involvement of their corrupt government systems. The exports of Ukraine’s IT and software services were worth $3.6 billion. In addition, outsourcing companies provided more than 100,000 software development jobs in the country’s IT sector in 2018.

SoftServe, an American outsourcing company, provided 6,000 employment opportunities for Ukrainian IT specialists. The firm also accepts 800 new recruits annually for a six-month training program. A recorded 70 percent of the program’s participants graduate to gainful employment in IT and software development. Moreover, for every software and IT professional that a company hires in Ukraine, four more jobs in various industries open from that one employment opportunity. The growth of these industries had such a large impact on Ukraine that tech companies can almost guarantee a steady inflow into the country’s economy within a few years.

Although Ukraine has a long road to becoming a fully developed country, its people have made impactful improvements over the last couple of decades. Despite the tireless oppression it faced, Ukraine proved that it has the potential to be a world superpower in innovation, creativity and technology.

Ashlyn Jensen 
Photo: Flickr

Facts About Joseph Stalin
Born on Dec 18, 1878, Joseph Stalin served as the Soviet Union’s Premier and the General Secretary of the Communist Party. Here are 10 horrendous facts about Joseph Stalin.

10 Horrendous Facts About Joseph Stalin

  1. As the Communist Party’s General Secretary, Stalin conducted so-called purges throughout the 1930s during which his administration imprisoned, exiled or executed political enemies and ethnic minorities. The time between 1936 and 1938 was the Great Purge and Stalin had approximately 750,000 people executed and sent millions to forced labor camps. In a forest by Toksovo, a small town near St. Petersburg, human rights workers discovered a mass grave of more than 30,000 victims in 2002.
  2. The First Plan, implemented in 1928, had a motive to modernize the Soviet Union’s industry. Stalin introduced the concept of collectivization by taking control of farmers’ lands. As a result, many farmers had to move towards cities for work. Stalin created state-run farms in the usurped lands and introduced time-specific quotas for the remaining farmers. These farmers could not eat the food they produced unless they reached the quotas they had to send to the cities. Subsequently, between 7 and 8 million people died on these rural lands from starvation and severe working conditions.
  3. Stalin designed and nurtured a famine throughout Ukraine between 1932 and 1933 that resulted in the death of approximately 7 million people. The Communist Party specifically targeted Ukraine for its efforts in gaining independence from Soviet rule. Stalin enforced quotas on Ukrainian farms to agricultural products to the Soviet Union. These quotas continued to increase until there was not enough food to sustain Ukrainian populations. When Ukrainian Communists appealed to the Soviet administration, Stalin used military force to purge the Ukrainian Communist Party and subsequently sealed Ukraine’s borders to prevent the shipment of food into the country. Additionally, Soviet forces confiscated all food sources from private Ukrainian residences.
  4. In 1919, Vladimir Lenin established the first Soviet forced labor camps. However, these camps, called the Gulags, did not reach full notoriety until the early 1930s under Stalin’s rule. Prisoners at the Gulags had to work at least 14 hours of demanding physical labor every day. These tasks included felling trees and digging frozen Soviet lands with rudimentary tools or mining coal and copper by hand. Prisoners received food based on how much work they completed in a day, however, even a full ration was insignificant. This labor force comprised of robbers, rapists, murderers, thieves and political enemies. Yet the majority of the prisoners were those the Soviets arrested for petty theft, lateness or unexcused absences from work.
  5. During Stalin’s early reign, the communist regime promoted the elimination of religion by confiscating church property, belittling religious beliefs and believers as well as promoting the indoctrination of atheism in schools. The Soviets exected the majority of the Russian Orthodox Church clergy and followers or sent them to the Gulags. The communist regime almost completely blocked the practice of Judaism instigated the systematic suppression of Islam until 1941.
  6. One of Stalin’s most heavily used tactics of oppression was censorship. Stalin cultivated a personality cult of artists that the state forced to create work that glorified the dictator. Those who read literature, viewed paintings and listened to music that the Soviet administration did not approve would have to go to the Gulags. Many artists committed suicide or attempted to flee the country in response.
  7. The Communist Party strictly controlled Education in the Soviet Union and based it on indoctrination. The government dictated which subjects schools could teach and test on. Teachers would teach History classes using materials that Stalin appointed, like the book A Short History of the USSR.
  8. Children received encouragement to join youth organizations outside of schools. Three tiers of these organizations existed: for 8 to 10-year-olds, there were the Octobrists; for 10 to 16-year-olds, the Pioneers; and for 19 to 23-year-olds, the Komsomol. Such organizations taught children how to be good communists. Stalin’s motive behind these youth clubs was to indoctrinate Soviet children into unquestioning obedience to the Communist Party. Further, when Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, children as young as those in the Pioneers tier received arms to defend the State.
  9. Stalin’s rule of the Soviet Union deported over 1.5 million people. The majority of these people were Muslim. Reasons for deportation included resisting Soviet rule, ethnicity, religion and collusion with Germany’s occupational forces. The Soviets had deportees rounded up in cattle cars and taken to resettlement locations like Siberia or Uzbekistan where almost two-fifths of resettled populations died.
  10. Following World War II, Stalin began a press campaign of attacks on Jewish culture and Zionism. In 1948, the Jewish Antifascist Committee, an organization promoting Soviet policies, Stalin’s forces had it disbanded and its chairman assassinated.

As seen by the aforementioned 10 facts about Joseph Stalin, the Communist Party of the Soviet Union created immense suffering and strife under Stalin’s reign. Scholars and historians assert that between 20 and 60 million people died as a result of Joseph Stalin’s dictatorship.

Bhavya Girotra
Photo: Flickr

 

Medical Reform in Ukraine
Ukraine is one of the most poverty-stricken countries in the world. In fact, people often consider it to be the poorest country of all. Recently, a new medical reform has emerged that promises a brighter future for Ukraine. It will not solve the entire problem of poverty in Ukraine, but it will make health care easier to afford, and therefore, be a step towards better conditions for its citizens.

Medical Reform

The main objectives of the medical reform are to focus on patient-first goals including incorporating new electronic medical services for recordkeeping and prescription services, opening the Affordable Medicines program and implementing government-guaranteed packages of health care services so that the National Health Service of Ukraine acts as a third party focusing on the patient and more. All of these new programs and changes will provide a way for the people of Ukraine to address their medical needs and receive care that is affordable for them.

For example, over 6.6 million Ukrainians have already used the Affordable Medicines program. They received the drugs they needed from the program and the drugs were “based on 28 million prescriptions worth UAH (Ukrainian Hryvnia) 1.3 Billion.” Now, about 7,937 drug stores are part of the program. The Affordable Medicines program has achieved giving the citizens of Ukraine access to medications that are usually difficult to obtain, primarily due to cost factors. The medical reform in Ukraine emerged precisely for these purposes. It strives to give better health care to the citizens of this country on a person by person basis.

High-Quality Medical Services

The most recent medical reform in Ukraine occurred in 2019. It involved giving people access to high-quality medical services, such as ultrasound exams and biopsies. These services are new additions to the medical reform. It also expanded the Affordable Drugs program so that it will provide free medicines for cardiovascular diseases, bronchial asthma and type II diabetes.

The Ministry of Health of Ukraine calculated that more than 24 million Ukrainians were able to start receiving high-quality medical services since they signed declarations with their doctors. Ukraine is working more and more towards making expensive medicines and treatments more accessible for its citizens. With this newest reform, more people are able to get the types of treatment they need that were previously inaccessible or unavailable, thereby getting them closer to curing their ailments. The steps the country is taking are slow to accomplish, but it is building a system for better overall health care in Ukraine.

Electronic Document Management

Another important aspect that is Ukraine’s health care system is implementing is electronic document management. Nowadays, technology is prevalent and sometimes the only way to access information directly. The newly developed electronic document management in Ukraine gives people easy access to necessities such as medicine. The documents that the electronic system handles include medical cards, sick leave certificates, drug orders, appointments with doctors and patient record-keeping by doctors. Incorporating these types of documents into the medical electronic managing system makes a patient’s medical records and history easier to keep track of and easier to treat in an orderly fashion.

While the poverty conditions in Ukraine are still a major problem, the country is taking steps to make it more manageable and move towards improving the quality of life for its citizens. This is especially true with the medical reform in Ukraine. Affordable, timely, and accessible medical care will improve the health and lives of people in need.

– Haley Saffren
Photo: Flickr

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

Mental Health in Ukraine
The embattled eastern European country of Ukraine faces increasing levels of poverty as the majority of the population is unable to afford required expenses, 28 years after the country earned its independence. Compared to countries in the European Union, Ukraine’s poverty indicator is 1.6 times higher. Rising rates of unemployment, disconnections, lack of education and conflict impact the state of mental health in Ukraine. At the start of the war in 2014, Ukraine ranked second on the list of the top 10 most depressed countries in the world.

The Current State of Mental Health in Ukraine

Due to the armed conflict plaguing the nation, 32 percent of Ukrainians suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, 22 percent suffer from depression and 17 percent suffer from anxiety. According to data from the World Health Organization (WHO), there is an average of 9,024 deaths due to suicide per year, ranking Ukraine at 21 for the countries with the highest rates of suicide. Data from the World Bank suggests that nearly one-third of the Ukrainian population experiences at least one mental health disorder during their life, which is higher than the global average. The 1.6 million Ukrainians that the conflict displaced and those still residing in areas of conflict are amongst the most vulnerable populations for mental health disorders.

Seventy-four percent of the population reported they were unable to receive necessary psychiatric care because of the high costs of care and medicine. Stigma, prejudice and fear of societal rejection further complicate the lack of mental health care in Ukraine.

Moving Toward the Future

The Ukrainian health care system currently models the Soviet’s, and despite 28 years of independence, it has seen little change and lags behind the developed world. There has been a call to integrate mental health care with the ongoing health care reform in Ukraine. Currently, the country devotes only 2.5 percent of the budget within the health care sector to mental health. Eighty-nine percent of the allocation goes to psychiatric hospitals. Decentralization of care would protect patient confidentiality, shrinking the widespread stigma. Inappropriate treatment aggravates the problem of mental health, with the inability to diagnose or the offering of a misdiagnosis. In moving forward, financing needs to increase, referral pathways should strengthen and mental health services must integrate into the existing health care platforms.

USAID in Ukraine

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) assists Ukraine in developing its health system with the overall aim of assuring the Ukrainian population receives modern care from knowledgeable, trained medical professionals. USAID and Ukraine’s partnership is to ensure those the conflict impacted in the eastern part of the country benefit from the appropriate psychosocial support and treatment that demonstrates effectiveness.

With help from the USAID and a focus on mental health moving forward, Ukraine looks to improve its care for those suffering from mental health disorders. Despite high levels of poverty and conflict plaguing the nation, there is a promising future for the care of mental health in Ukraine.

– Gwen Schemm
Photo: Flickr

Education in Ukraine

Due 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 Ukraine

Ukraine 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 Ukraine

The 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