Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in UkraineThe COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be a global risk on many fronts other than health. As lockdowns extend and new variants claim dominance, countries are finding it challenging to fight poverty. In the east, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ukraine could reverse multiple years of joint efforts for the country to gain economic stability. In response, the Ukrainian government is taking action to boost domestic economic value while the World Bank is offering loans to help eliminate the harsh effects of the pandemic on Ukraine’s impoverished.

Ukraine Before COVID-19

At the end of 2019, Ukraine was well on its way to creating stable economic infrastructure with its unemployment rate reaching a five-year low of 7.3%. Respectively, Ukraine’s employment rate topped 69% at the end of 2019, the highest it has reached in more than 25 years. Aside from employment security, Ukraine had seen constant growth in year-on-year comparisons of its GDP from 2016-2020, averaging 2.8% growth per quarter.

How COVID-19 Could Increase Poverty in Ukraine

Although the post-Soviet nation had 43.2% of its population living below the poverty line in 2018, UNICEF has projected that the rate of those in poverty in Ukraine will increase by 5% by the end of 2021. Additionally, Ukraine’s employment rate has dropped steadily throughout 2020, starting at 67.9% and reducing to 64.3% in the last quarter of 2020. Astonishingly, after the first quarter of 2021, employment rates in Ukraine dropped to 55%.

As of October 2020, the UNOCHA reported that 80% of Ukrainian households ended up with reduced income. Subsequently, unemployment rates in Ukraine have risen to 10.5% in the first quarter of 2021. Contextually, the highest it has reached since the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Despite the impacts of COVID-19 on poverty in Ukraine, the country has increased its GDP by 5.4% in the second quarter of 2021, Ukraine’s largest GDP growth rate in 10 years and its first-period growth since the beginning of the pandemic in early 2020. National legislation and loans from the World Bank are major contributing factors to this growth.

Ukraine’s “Adaptive” Lockdown

While cases surge in Ukraine, the country is panning out to be one of the hardest-hit nations in Europe with more than two million confirmed cases. As of early August 2021, the government ordered a strict lockdown until October 1, 2021, in hopes of minimizing any future impact from COVID-19 on poverty in Ukraine. The adaptive lockdown measures allow regions to either ramp up or loosen lockdown restrictions depending on the number of cases in the area.

World Bank Loans

The World Bank loaned the Ukrainian government $150 million in April 2020, $300 million in December 2020 and $100 million in May 2021. The loans respond to the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ukraine in accordance with the Ukraine Access to Long Term Finance Project.

The funds will help strengthen social safety nets such as Ukraine’s Guaranteed Minimum Income Program (GMI) and provide loans to small and medium-sized businesses. This will help build programs and projects that assist in fighting poverty and prevent further COVID-19 impacts.

The Ukrainian Government’s Measures

The Ukrainian government temporarily amended trade laws to allow imported goods into the country at a cost-effective rate in order to combat COVID-19. The legislation is waiving the value-added tax (VAT) which ends up on every imported item entering the country. This will reduce costs for equipment and goods imported, including medical devices, services and vaccines.

Ukraine is also making progress in vaccinating its population. On August 16, 2021, more than 100,000 Ukrainians received vaccinations, bringing the nation’s total of vaccinated citizens to 4.75 million people.

The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Ukraine has impacted its stability significantly. However, with assistance and domestic cooperation, the nation of Ukraine is fighting back.

– Ali Benzerara
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Human Trafficking in Ukraine
Human trafficking in Ukraine is a serious and overwhelming issue that has affected the lives of thousands of innocent men, women and children. Ukraine is one of the most prominent countries in Europe for human trafficking with over 260,000 Ukrainian trafficking victims over the last 30 years. Despite this disheartening number, Ukraine’s government and some organizations are fighting human trafficking in Ukraine.

The History of Trafficking in Ukraine

When Ukraine became a separate nation in 1991, the slave and human trafficking trade skyrocketed. The ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine has worsened the issue as it has caused displacement for millions of individuals. These individuals are far more susceptible to ending up in the trafficking trade because of the vulnerable state they are in due to the turmoil between the two countries, according to the Library of Congress Law. Traffickers often target the Roma community of Ukraine, a nomadic Indo-Aryan group of people, because they lack access to state social assistance programs. Low-skilled laborers, as well as children in state-run orphanages, are targets for traffickers as well. This is because they are poor and powerless in the eyes of the country.

Efforts to Fight Human Trafficking in Ukraine

Ukraine is taking huge strides in its governmental policies to combat human trafficking. The International Organization for Migration Ukraine Counter-Trafficking Program aims to support efforts to combat trafficking in Ukraine. It also provides access for victims to receive “assistance and justice.” The IOM program identified and was able to help around 600 victims of human trafficking from January to June 2019, with about 16,000 victims having received assistance throughout 19 years of the program’s existence. Without the help of the IOM, efforts towards tracking down victims and traffickers would not be as prominent.

Governmental Progress in Fighting Human Trafficking in Ukraine

Ukraine’s government has made huge strides in law enforcement efforts to combat human trafficking in the country. This includes increasing the number of investigated offenses and apprehensions from previous years. The government has increased financial assistance to victims of human trafficking. It has also been providing shelter through government housing, psychological assistance and medical care. The Ministry for Social Policy has continually made attempts at anti-trafficking efforts by creating Child Protection Day and World Day Against Trafficking in Persons.

Looking Ahead

The issue of human trafficking in Ukraine is on an upswing. This is because there is more governmental recognition of the way it is impacting Ukrainian citizens. With the efforts of organizations like IOM, there are more forces garnering action towards fighting human trafficking in Ukraine.

– Allie Degner
Photo: Flickr

Tuberculosis in UkraineThe tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine is characterized by drug-resistant tuberculosis strands. Among new tuberculosis cases in 2019, 27% involved drug-resistant tuberculosis and thousands of other cases were classified as multidrug-resistant tuberculosis (MDR-TB). Ukraine suffers from close to the highest rate of MDR-TB in the world. Tuberculosis in Ukraine is only successfully treated at a rate of 76% for various reasons, including patients stopping treatment prematurely, further complications, the high prevalence of MDR-TB and receiving treatment too late.

Current Efforts

In an effort to reduce the burden of tuberculosis in Ukraine, USAID is working with U.S. government agencies and other partners on various projects. Many programs have been introduced in recent years to strengthen the fight against tuberculosis in Ukraine. For example, the Management Sciences for Health (MSH) implemented the Safe, Affordable and Effective Medicines for Ukrainians (SAFEMed) project to ensure transparency and cost-efficiency within the Ukrainian health system. The programs work to increase public access to medicines and commodities essential to treating tuberculosis. Moreover, PATH, a global nonprofit working to improve public health, began the USAID-supported Serving Life Project to reduce the spread of tuberculosis and other diseases by improved detection. Serving Life specifically aims to increase the care and treatment of people living with tuberculosis in pre-trial detention centers, prisons and post-prison settings.

The Transportation Problem

Affordable medication and proper detection are the first steps in the fight against tuberculosis as “timely access to diagnosis and treatment make a difference in tuberculosis care.” However, many parts of Ukraine suffer from lacking specimen transportation systems. With inefficient or even nonexistent systems, the fight against tuberculosis in Ukraine becomes more difficult as these systems delay access to tuberculosis testing and treatment.

The failures in specimen transportation have potentially increased the already high rates of multidrug-resistant tuberculosis, a tuberculosis strand much more challenging to treat. This is because multidrug-resistant tuberculosis arises from the incomplete treatment of tuberculosis, occurring when public health systems are unable to deliver reliable and consistent tuberculosis treatment to patients. Strains on the healthcare system only exacerbate these inefficiencies as the system becomes overloaded. For example, when COVID-19 reached Ukraine, COVID-19 treatment received priority. As a result, many tuberculosis patients were forced to resort to their own methods of specimen transport.

USAID Introduces New Transportation Plan

When USAID’s Support TB Control Efforts in Ukraine activity began in October 2019, Ukraine’s lacking specimen transportation system was identified as one of the weakest links in the fight against tuberculosis in Ukraine. USAID then began a functional transportation system in the Cherkasy Oblast of Ukraine in June 2020. The program uses USAID-provided coolers to preserve specimens in transport and works to plan more flexible and adaptable transportation routes. As a result, transport vehicles are now able to do rounds four times a week while also ensuring weekly delivery to and from each primary healthcare facility. While the program began in Cherkasy, it has expanded to seven other oblasts in Ukraine within less than a year of the program’s inception.

With efforts from organizations to address the tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine, it is hopeful that Ukraine will see its case numbers dropping.

Kendall Carll
Photo: Flickr

Greater Chernobyl CauseOn April 26, 1986, the Chernobyl Nuclear Plant in Ukraine exploded. The disaster occurred because of insufficiently trained operators and a problematic reactor design, leading to the reactor becoming unstable. The resulting fires and explosions destroyed the plant and triggered a 10-day long release of radioactive material that would devastate the land for centuries to follow. The Chernobyl disaster exacerbated poverty and caused long-term health and environmental impacts. The Greater Chernobyl Cause is an organization working to alleviate this issue of poverty in Ukraine, with a special focus on children.

Chernobyl’s Path of Destruction

When the power plant exploded, everything within about an 18-mile radius of it was immediately contaminated. This contamination included crops, which resulted in a large food shortage, impacting the agricultural sector. The livestock that consumed crops were also affected. Moreover, nearby bodies of water were contaminated, rendering them undrinkable and contaminating fish and soil.

The destruction of agriculture heavily contributed to the ensuing poverty from the nuclear accident. In the agricultural industry, farmers who relied on crops lost their livelihoods and their source of food security. Ukraine, the “breadbasket of Europe,” was unable to produce and harvest crops due to largely contaminated land. The impact on agriculture affected the entire economy.

The Effects on Citizens

The disaster also severely affected the health of residents near Chernobyl. The people exposed to the radiation from the explosion are at high risk of cancers and radiation-induced conditions. It is predicted that 4,000 people who were exposed 20 years ago may die from cancer or acute radiation. The catastrophe also significantly impacted people’s mental health as many evacuees believed they only had a short time to live because of radiation exposure.

The combined effects of poverty, disease and mental health issues hit children the hardest. Homelessness among children skyrocketed due to high rates of parent mortality and the impact of poverty. The Greater Chernobyl Cause estimates that 120,000 children live or beg on the streets in Ukraine. Many of these children are victims of radiation and have developed health issues, requiring shelter and medical assistance.

The Greater Chernobyl Cause

The Greater Chernobyl Cause is an Ireland-based charity working to help homeless children in Ukraine, particularly those affected by the disaster of Chernobyl. Its founder, Fiona Corcoran, horrified by the effects of the Chernobyl explosion, made it her mission to help the victims of the nuclear disaster. Now, she works full-time to fight the poverty caused by the Chernobyl disaster, especially focusing on affected children. The Greater Chernobyl Cause provides shelter, food and medical treatments for the children. The charity uses the donations it receives to build dormitories and develop education programs, among other endeavors.

The Chernobyl nuclear disaster had devastating effects on Ukraine and its people. Vulnerable children were harshly impacted by the calamity. With the support of organizations like the Greater Chernobyl Cause, some of these impacts can be addressed.

Alison Ding
Photo: Flickr

USAID Programs in Ukraine
Seven years after the onset of the conflict in Crimea, President Joe Biden reaffirmed the United States’ support of Ukraine in the country’s ongoing struggle with Russia over the Crimean Peninsula. President Biden’s statement in support of those in the country working, “towards a peaceful, democratic and prosperous future,” comes as USAID programs in Ukraine continue to help deal with the aftermath of the conflict while also assisting with the ongoing COVID-19 crisis and other healthcare issues.

USAID Relief During the Crimean Conflict

The Russian occupation of Crimea and the ensuing discord in the region have resulted in over 3,000 civilian deaths and led to 1.5 million people becoming internationally displaced persons. As a result of the continuing effects of the hostilities in Eastern Ukraine, USAID has partnered with the Ukrainian Helsinki Human Rights Union to assist in helping victims of the conflict with legal matters.

In January 2021 alone, the partnership addressed 393 appeals for legal assistance. This followed a year in which the partnership addressed over 300 appeals for legal assistance each month on subjects ranging from illegal detentions and torture, reimbursement of damages and legislation related to social protection.

Similarly, USAID has also continued to support the U.N.’s efforts to help the populace in Eastern Ukraine. Since 2014, USAID programs in Ukraine have provided more than $88 million in aid towards providing food, shelter, protection and other forms of relief to affected people in the region.

USAID Healthcare Support in Ukraine

In 2021, USAID began participating in the U.N.’s 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Ukraine by supporting eight non-governmental organizations in their efforts to protect vulnerable populations in the area including the elderly, children and people in remote communities. The U.N. plan aims to provide aid to 1.9 million of the most vulnerable people in Eastern Ukraine in order to help improve their living conditions and assist in key areas like healthcare and sanitation during the ongoing COVID-19 crisis. USAID supports multiple areas of the plan including cash assistance and pandemic response programs.

One such program that has received support is WASH, an initiative to provide sanitation awareness, education and access to vulnerable communities including children and families. The U.S. government gave $6.9 million to WASH in 2020 to help the program achieve those goals through tactics like the distribution of hygiene commodities and the installation of public handwashing stations.

Pandemic Relief

USAID’s pandemic relief extends beyond U.N.-related initiatives as well. Thus far, the United States has given $29 million worth of aid to Ukraine to help combat the spread of COVID-19. That aid has helped provide key medical equipment and supplies to the country. For example, the U.S. embassy in Ukraine announced in February 2021 that USAID provided $1 million worth of oxygen stations to 15 different Ukrainian hospitals in order to treat severe COVID-19 cases.

Additionally, USAID programs in Ukraine have targeted healthcare issues in the country beyond the pandemic. This includes initiatives such as USAID’s new partnership with Ronald McDonald House Charities to support family healthcare in the country through efforts like a national education program to improve Ukraine’s medical systems. This joint effort marked the first partnership between USAID and Ronald McDonald House Charities, a nonprofit that currently operates in five public hospitals in Ukraine.

Through programs and initiatives like these, USAID continues to work towards its goal of helping facilitate a secure, healthy and self-reliant country for the Ukrainian people in the midst of the ongoing Crimean conflict.

– Brett Grega
Photo: Flickr

Examining The Ukrainian Path ForwardIn 2013, tens of thousands of Ukrainian citizens took to the streets to protest the government’s decision to abandon an agreement with the European Union. Ukrainians saw this move as a political realignment with Russia after years of economic and political grudges had nearly pushed the country in the opposite direction towards the E.U. and the West. There did not seem to be a Ukrainian path forward; for many, this was a step backward. The protests sent a clear message of the Ukrainian people’s deep-seated frustration with their government. This frustration compounded with Ukraine’s choice to remain more closely tied to Russia than with its western neighbors. By February 2014, then-President Yanukovych had fled to Russia and the opposition government stepped in. Then, in March 2014, the fate of Ukrainians turned irrevocably grim as Russia began a thinly-veiled invasion.

Invasion, Annexation and Occupation

Many still regard Russia’s annexation of Crimea as a breach of international law according to its membership of the United Nations, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) and its signing of the Budapest Memorandum in 1994. It met with harsh sanctions from the U.S., E.U. and several other nations, many of which targeted Russia’s lucrative oil and gas exports. Despite international condemnation, Russia was at it again the next month.

Pro-Russian separatists in the eastern Ukrainian cities of Donetsk and Luhansk declared independence from Ukraine. They soon received military assistance in their fight against the Ukrainian military. Support came in the form of what has become widely known as “little green men.” Russian troops had already occupied Crimea, but they were also assisting the separatist movements in the newly-declared autonomous zones in the Donbass region. They supplied light and heavy arms, troops and tactical assistance. All this has led to a conflict that remains unresolved to this day. The conflict remains frozen in constantly-violated ceasefires without a clear end in sight. Russia still receives much of the blame from the international community.

The Kremlin Strategy

The war claimed 14,000 lives since 2014, displaced millions of Ukrainians and sent Ukraine’s economy in turmoil, begging the question of why Russia has been willing to commit to this volatile conflict. The answer lies in defense. Ukraine is one of the key former Soviet states that form a buffer zone around Russia’s eastern border. The border has seen numerous invasions throughout history and, according to “The Red Line” podcast, “after World War II, Russia decided that it never again wanted to be only 1,200 kilometers from [its] enemy’s position.”

The Ukrainian path forward is currently at a crossroads. If the country aligns itself with the West, Russia would face a major geopolitical loss. Russia maintains the conflict largely because it provides for the existence of three territorial disputes within Ukraine. This bars it from joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) as a country cannot join the Western alliance if it has any outstanding territorial disputes or conflicts. A similar strategy has worked for Russia in Georgia, Moldova and Azerbaijan. This does not, however, mean that there is no hope for an end to the violence.

Peace by Any Means

In the seven years following the Russo-Ukrainian conflict, a long brigade of ceasefires, peace agreements and mounting international pressure to end the violence have occurred. Perhaps the most notable successes were the Minsk Protocol of 2014 and the subsequent Minsk II Agreement in 2015. The Minsk II Agreement included steps towards a ceasefire, monitoring from the OSCE and the assertion that economic recovery was necessary in the regions the conflict affected the most. The latter attempted to build upon limited successes from the past year, but the ceasefires have followed a consistent pattern of violations along the so-called “security zone.” Aside from two prisoner swaps, increased humanitarian assistance and successive ceasefires in the past two years, a clear Ukrainian path forward to lasting peace still appears blocked.

A Shift in Foreign Engagement

The leaders of Germany and France have spearheaded the majority of peace talks and negotiations. However, the Biden Administration brings hope to the international community that the U.S. will become more involved in negotiations. Increased involvement would help the Ukrainian path forward, rather than Ukraine continuing to rely on defensive aid to its government. Antony Blinken’s nomination to Secretary of State has garnered even more speculation about the possible benefits for the Ukrainian people. The Atlantic Council maintained that “Blinken played an influential role in the imposition of sanctions against Russia over the 2014 invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine.” It is true that the ratcheting up of economic sanctions could force Russia back to the negotiating table. Hopefully this time with genuine aspirations of cooling the conflict down.

Scott Mistler-Ferguson
Photo: Flickr

European Union Membership
The European Union, or E.U., stands as a pillar in Europe, promoting economic and political stability. The partner countries of the E.U. make up a thriving economic landscape. The 10 poorest countries in Europe are not members of the European Union. This includes nations such as Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo, which stand as the three poorest countries in the continent. If these countries were to have European Union membership, would they benefit?

Anatomy of an Impoverished Country

Ukraine, Moldova and Kosovo a history of government corruption in common. In Moldova, the disappearance of $1 billion from the banking system in 2014 was due to various politicians. Losses like this, high public debt and detrimental business decisions have allowed corruption to thrive. This severely impacts growth potential.

Similarly, in Ukraine, the elite still controls the economy. The economy never healed from the dissolution of the USSR in 1991. Politicians with ulterior motives have quickly hijacked any start of the national budget, such as the military budget. Competition has disappeared in multiple sectors inhibiting growth. For example, politicians frequently make pricing decisions with business in mind rather than individuals.

The preservation of the elite interests blocks agricultural reform, while the monopolization of government funds by private bank owners shuts down bank reform before it can start. As well, the Ukrainian diaspora does little to combat this.

In Kosovo, the political climate remains volatile, with former Prime Minister Ramush Haradinaj having resigned in July 2019. The E.U. reported that the messy election process that followed in his wake lacked “constructive political dialogue,” in part due to the lack of minimum-member requirements to make forum meetings valid.

Following this, a caretaker government remained in place under the leadership of former Prime Minister Albin Kurti until the election of current Prime Minister Avdullah Hoti. The 2019 election revealed several unsavory truths about the state of politics in Kosovo. Voter intimidation tactics underwent deployment against non-Srpska Lista (the Serb List, a minority political party) candidates and supporters.

Whether the activities of the government include explicitly skimming funds initially for the welfare of the people, or suppressing voices when the nation has the potential to change, corrupt governments are all too common in impoverished countries. The elite seeks to protect specific interests and fund individual exploits at the expense of the people.

European Union Membership

Countries that want to undergo consideration for E.U. membership need to meet three major criteria. The first requires the applying nation to have a stable, democratic government that protects human rights. The second is a competitive economy. The third is that the applicant must be willing to comply with the E.U.’s political, economic and monetary policies.

In joining the E.U., citizens of partnered countries access a market with diverse choices and stable prices, as well as a secure and lucrative economy. Moreover, the nation joins the global economy via the E.U., presenting a cohesive, prominent European identity. All of these factors lend support and power to the people, unlike when support and power are at risk under a corrupt government. However, an obstacle to E.U. membership that remains, is these formerly corrupt governments must meet a certain ethical standard.

The International Committee of the Red Cross

Fixing the main obstacles inhibiting these countries’ growth requires more than one solution.  While European Union membership could be a valuable resource and an incredible step forward for countries like Kosovo and Ukraine, they have to make several strides before they can receive membership. The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) can help triage several of these issues, stabilizing the area to help get them closer to European Union membership.

For example, in Ukraine, where infrastructure has taken a hit with government corruption and negligence, the ICRC provided 850,000 people with water, due to trying to fix the sanitation sector and setting up waterboards. Meanwhile, 67 health care facilities received necessary supplies. Moreover, 120,000 obtained food, hygiene, cash aid for agricultural endeavors and grants for business opportunities.

Looking Ahead

Joining the E.U. is not a cure for poverty in Europe. Meeting the baseline criteria concerning human rights and the economy can be challenging for many impoverished countries. Additionally, E.U. membership is a partnership that does not have the intention of being a one-way deployment of aid.

For the E.U., the protection of human rights, a stable economy and a cohesive identity are important factors. The lack of these qualities often allows poverty to thrive. A weak and volatile economy leaves many citizens income-insecure, especially in places where minority groups receive poor treatment. Furthermore, corruption, like siphoning government funds, can prevent an economy from getting on its feet.

Organizations like the ICRC can help stabilize areas as it can help Ukraine and Kosovo obtain their daily needs and start growing their infrastructure. This would help them join the E.U. in which nations agree to make policies that will abide by the E.U.’s goals. This will allow nations like Ukraine and Kosovo to work more easily with other E.U. members and promote regional stability and consistency of policy and cohesion of identity.

Stronger together than apart, the E.U. provides more opportunities for individual nations inside to trade with those that lay outside the immediate vicinity.

– Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Ukrainian InventionsUkraine is the second poorest country in Europe, with a per capita GDP of less than $3000. Ukraine had a difficult time rebuilding its economy after the collapse of the USSR in 1991 and was left with a crumbling economy due to corruption, poor infrastructure and many other factors. Despite the shortcomings of Ukraine’s economy, it has shown incredible potential for innovation and ingenuity because of the high-tech inventions that have come out of the Ukrainian workforce. Increased investment in Ukrainian inventions would drive it to success and improve the economy by creating stable work conditions. Improving infrastructure and creating sustainable job opportunities would help the economy grow and help Ukraine continue making world-renowned inventions.

5 High-Tech Ukrainian Inventions

  1. Grammarly: Grammarly was founded in Ukraine by Alex Shevchenko and Max Lytvyn in 2009. Grammarly uses AI software to proofread text on sites like Google, LinkedIn, various social media sites and more, while offering grammatical corrections. It is now a U.S.-based company and a widely popular tool for producing academic papers, professional documents and other bodies of text.
  2. Snapchat Filters: Snapchat filters and lenses first came about when Snapchat acquired Ukrainian startup, Looksery. Looksery is a facial recognition software that allows users to put filters on themselves while video chatting. Looksery was bought in 2015, started by a Ukrainian team with Victor Shaburov as the CEO. Snapchat uses the technology to create its filters, one of the many successful and important updates to the social media app. Instagram, another social media app, followed in the footsteps of Snapchat and introduced a version of Instagram photo filters in 2018.
  3. Apps for Deaf People: BeWarned, a Ukrainian-based startup co-founded by Vitaliy Potapchuck, is an application that people who are deaf can download on their phones to help them communicate with others. Potapchuck is also deaf and designed the app to pick up possible dangerous sounds and call for emergency help. BeWarned also makes other software for those who are deaf and hard of hearing.
  4. Virtual Reality Gloves: In 2016, a Ukrainian team of engineers created a prototype virtual reality glove that allows users to “feel” virtual reality items as if they were real. The glove mimics real-life hand motions and is used for a variety of things besides virtual reality gaming. Healthcare professionals can use the glove to study mobility and disease treatments. Co-founder, Denis Pankrushev, wanted the technology to “open new horizons for mankind.” This opened doors for virtual reality innovation and put Ukrainian technology startups in the spotlight.
  5. Uber for Yachts: The company CharterClick was started by three Ukrainian immigrants in Dubai to provide an easy way to rent a boat or luxury yacht for events. The team created CharterClick to show that complicated tasks like renting an expensive cruise with a full crew, can be completed in a short amount of time with just a few clicks. The service operates in more than 40 countries and is dubbed “the world’s most convenient vessel booking service.”

Ukrainian Inventions: Potential for the Economy

Ukraine ranked second place in the Top Three Innovation Economies by lower-middle-income group according to the Global Innovation Index. It is also ranked 45th in the world by the Global Innovation Index. There is massive potential for Ukrainian technology to continue its path of innovation and unlock itself to the European market. International investment can help improve the poor infrastructure that drives creative minds and job opportunities out of the country.

Google Ukraine’s CEO recognizes the brilliant minds of the country, but notes that many of them choose to work in the U.S. because of more “favorable conditions.” Favorable conditions include better infrastructure, better pay and a market that attracts investors. Ukraine is closed off to the international market because of its poor societal conditions, which is detrimental to its working-class and the overall economy.

How Supportive Infrastructure Will Improve the Economy

Ukrainian infrastructure is one of the main reasons that working in the country is difficult. The majority of the roads in Ukraine are too poor to carry cargo and passengers, limiting trades in the country and making it difficult to get to work. Ukraine has set an infrastructure plan for 2030 that includes improvement of all transportation systems with a high price tag. Over the next 10 years, Ukraine requires up to $25 billion of investment to complete the plan as it can only fund $.1.5 billion per year on its own.

Transforming Ukraine: Inventions and Infrastructure

Putting technological growth in the spotlight will attract more investors that want to see the Ukrainian technology sector thrive. Much-needed funding can come from international attention to the infrastructure problem. Improvement will create construction job opportunities and motivate the government to tend to the sectors that are struggling.

Ukrainian inventors should be able to work in their own country without having to migrate to another. Not to mention that infrastructure improvement will help many other citizens easily find work and improve the economy. Ukrainian inventions have the potential to kickstart the country’s economy and help with its development.

– Julia Ditmar
Photo: Flickr

5 Facts About Homelessness in UkraineUkraine, a former Soviet Republic, currently has the 112th largest GDP per capita in the world. However, Ukraine’s economy has lagged behind those of other European powers and is considered to be a developing country. Experiencing wars and widespread poverty, Ukraine’s homeless population has grown in recent years, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are five facts you need to know about homelessness in Ukraine.

5 Things to Know About Homelessness in Ukraine

  1. The number of homeless people in Ukraine is unknown: The Ukrainian government only counts the homeless population who qualify for government aid. As such, many NGOs, including the Ukrainian Social Fund Partnership, and other experts estimate that the homeless population in Ukraine was over 200,000 in 2015. With a 9.2% unemployment rate pre-COVID-19 and 1.5 million people in Ukraine living below the poverty line, these figures are likely understated. However, if these estimates are to be believed, Ukraine would have one of the highest rates of homelessness in Europe with a similar homelessness rate to that of countries like Peru and Guatemala. The level of homelessness in Ukraine is difficult to track due to a lack of adequate government surveillance and social services available for homeless individuals to use.
  2. The war with Russia has increased the homeless population: Since the Russian invasion of Crimea in 2014, 2,777 civilians have been killed. The military conflict between Russia and Ukraine has also left an estimated 1.6 million internally displaced people (IDPs) as civilians have fled conflict zones to the relative safety of Kyiv. Made up largely of ethnic minorities, the large amount of internally displaced persons within Ukraine gives the country the most amount of IDPs in the world. The United Nations Refugee Agency and other organizations have provided shelter to these refugees in an effort to prevent them from becoming homeless. Additionally, in 2019, the Ukrainian parliament passed a bill to increase funds for affordable housing for displaced persons, providing housing for 800 IDP families. Despite these efforts, the Ukrainian refugee crisis has undoubtedly contributed to homelessness in Ukraine although exact numbers are unknown. However, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) did report that in 2019, it failed to provide shelter and other needs for between 8000 to 9000 internally displaced families in Ukraine.
  3. Leftover Soviet-era policies discriminate against homelessness in Ukraine: During Soviet-era Ukraine government documents called propiska served as a form of internal passport to allow access to social services and travel within the Soviet Union. Although these documents were abolished in name by the Ukrainian government in 1997, residence permits serving the same function as propiska are still used. Ethnic minorities like Roma, displaced persons and the homeless are not issued these documents due to a lack of residency. These documents serve the same purpose as the Soviet documentation once did and as such, Ukrainians still refer to them as propiska. Without propiska, the homeless population in Ukraine does not have access to public housing, homeless shelters, unemployment benefits, food coupons, employment, childcare or the right to vote. This practice of issuing government identification only to those with homes has often been criticized by organizations like the European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) for deliberately discriminating against impoverished and minority communities.
  4. Social aid has become more restrictive: In April of 2016, a spokesperson from the NGO Narondna Dopomoga revealed to the Kyiv Post that they were no longer being allowed by the government to register homeless people for propiska. Previously, a homeless person was able to register via a homeless shelter or center and would gain access to social payments from the government and employment opportunities. However, with new legislation, the homeless are required to have a place of residence (which may include a semi-permanent bed at a shelter) in order to apply for these benefits. These restrictions have been criticized for appealing to anti-homeless sentiments within Ukrainian society.
  5. Several NGOs are stepping up in the absence of government assistance: Because Ukraine is a conflict zone with one of the worst economies in the world, the Ukrainian government lacks the ability to adequately respond to the country’s homelessness crisis. However, because the country receives a large amount of aid from the United Nations and its partner NGOs, there have been some efforts to combat homelessness in Ukraine. For example, the Ukrainian Charity Fund Social Partnership in Kyiv has a center where thousands of homeless come each day. Here they receive food, medical assistance, facilities to clean themselves, laundromats and access to recreational facilities. Helping the homeless youth, ex-convicts and refugees who come through, the Ukrainian Charity Fund Social Partnership also helps these groups to find employment that does not require propiska. Other organizations like Depaul provide shelter for the homeless, especially those fleeing conflict zones in eastern Ukraine as well as homeless mothers and their children.

Due to its struggling economy and war with Russia, Ukraine has suffered an increase in the homeless population in the past few years. Ranging from the unemployed to internally displaced people, government policy often discriminates against those without homes. However, with the intervention of U.N. organizations and other NGOs, homelessness in Ukraine is being addressed. With shelters, jobs and other facilities being provided, many homeless people are being tended to although much is still yet to be done on the part of the Ukrainian government.

– Aidan Sun
Photo: Flickr

United Kingdom's Foreign Aid
The United Kingdom has boosted its foreign assistance to Ukraine with an additional £5 million (about $6.5 million) in humanitarian aid. Announced during a recent visit to London by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy, the United Kingdom’s foreign aid will help alleviate widespread suffering caused by the conflict in eastern Ukraine and the coronavirus pandemic.  Among other objectives, such assistance will allow for the procurement of food, water and medical supplies in addition to providing much-needed psychosocial support to victims of sexual and gender-based violence.

Furthermore, President Zelenskyy has also received a commitment from U.K. Prime Minister Boris Johnson for preferential trade and for greater cooperation between the two countries on issues relating to politics, security and foreign affairs.  The Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement that both leaders signed during their London meeting outlined these goals.  According to U.K. Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, the combination of humanitarian assistance and bilateral cooperation “[…] is a clear demonstration of the U.K.’s commitment to Ukraine’s prosperity and security.”

Conflict in Crimea

The United Kingdom’s foreign aid will support efforts to address the humanitarian emergency in eastern Ukraine, which developed as the result of years of armed conflict.  After popular anti-government protests prompted former President Viktor Yanukovych to flee the country in February 2014, Russian President Vladimir Putin seized the opportunity to send troops to Ukraine’s Crimean Peninsula.  His formal (and illegal) annexation of Crimea one month later exacerbated ethnic tensions throughout the region, inspiring pro-Russia Ukrainians to hold a referendum and declare their independence.

Since April 2014, violence between Russia-backed separatists and Ukrainian military forces has claimed the lives of more than 13,000 people, but many more have experienced serious injury.  Diplomatic efforts to broker a peaceful resolution have been unsuccessful; skirmishes and shelling continue, and unexploded landmines remain a serious threat.

As of December 2019, reports determined that 730,000 people were internally displaced in territories that the Ukrainian government controlled, while the majority of those who have remained in eastern Ukraine are elderly, ill or disabled. The United Nations has estimated that over 4 million people are dependent upon some form of humanitarian support, but this number could increase as temperatures drop during the coming months.

Economic Turmoil

Six years of bloodshed is not the only trial Ukrainians have faced, however; they must also contend with a struggling economy. Although poverty rates have fallen in recent years and President Zelenskyy has promised to root out corruption among the political elite, Ukraine currently ranks as the poorest country in Europe, with a GDP per capita of only $3,140. And yet, economic conditions could worsen significantly in the wake of COVID-19.

Even if the full extent of the pandemic’s financial impact is still unclear, the latest Economic Activity Report that Ukraine’s Ministry for Development of Economy, Trade and Agriculture released reveals that the country’s GDP decreased by 5.9% between January and May 2020. This has led the Cabinet of Ministers to predict that the Ukrainian economy may shrink by as much as 8% in 2020, with the potential for lower wages and greater unemployment. According to conservative estimates from UNICEF, the economic downturn could cause 6.3 million more people in Ukraine to fall into poverty, 1.4 million of these being children.

In the current context of a global health crisis layered above political and economic instability, an increase in the United Kingdom’s foreign aid to Ukraine will provide essential humanitarian relief. Moreover, the additional £5 million will also support essential projects to rebuild housing and health facilities and to help finance business ventures that encourage the country’s economic recovery. Finally, it is just a fraction of the total foreign aid—£40 million, or $51.8 million—that the British government has allocated to Ukraine during 2020.

Benefits of Foreign Aid

Beyond those benefits mentioned above, there are other significant advantages of the U.K.’s foreign aid and its Political, Free Trade and Strategic Partnership Agreement with Ukraine. These include:

  • Expressing the U.K.’s support for the protection of vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine and for the maintenance of an international community that respects human rights;
  • Creating a channel for the U.K. to pressure Ukrainian officials to enact reforms for future economic growth; and
  • Restoring peace in a democratic country whose stability is, as Foreign Secretary Raab stated, essential for the security of the entire European continent. This is especially true in light of Ukraine’s intention to join the European Union and the NATO alliance.

Combined with similar actions by other governments, including the E.U. and the United States, the steps in London earlier in October 2020 to increase the United Kingdom’s foreign aid and strengthen its ties with Ukraine will hopefully alleviate the immediate struggles of the Ukrainian people while bolstering their country’s efforts toward peace and recovery in the longer term.

– Angie Grigsby
Photo: Flickr