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

technology in Ukraine
Ukraine, despite its successful farming and metal industries, still suffers from elevated unemployment and static poverty levels. Due to foreign aggression and weak infrastructure, Ukraine has not been able to rebound from many of its economic downturns. Additionally, outdated models of production have caused the metallurgy sector to fall behind the global pace, and low productivity alongside restrictive laws limit Ukraine’s agricultural sector. As Ukraine looks to develop further, it has turned its focus to technology, creating a robust field that is rapidly expanding around the world. What was once a developing industry in Ukraine is transforming into a successful business model worldwide. As Ukraine continues to recover from the conflict and corruption plaguing its history, the continued expansion of technology into its economy will be the greatest investment for the country’s development. These five facts about technology in Ukraine are integral to understanding the country’s shifting economic state and transition out of poverty.

5 Facts About Technology in Ukraine

  1. Engineers and technicians were among the first to start businesses in Ukraine, which is a key factor in how the technology in Ukraine has grown to the industry it is today. One of the first companies that found international success was SoftServe, an outsourcing and out-staffing company. Two Ukrainian graduates founded the company in Lyiv and it now operates in the big data, cloud computing, DevOps, e-commerce, security and experience design technology sectors. SoftServe has grown into a company employing over 8,000 people in 35 offices worldwide.
  2. Ukraine’s tech engineers have already founded companies that have overtaken the global stage. Software companies saw unprecedented growth in the early 21st century, driven by increased demand and the introduction of an IT Creative Fund. One Ukrainian technology group founded during this period, Ciklum, provides client services including custom solutions development, quality engineering, data analytics and consulting. Now employing over 3,500 people, Ciklum has achieved recognition as a Fortune 500 company.
  3. Domestic economic developments have improved Ukraine’s ability to participate in the technology boom. The first development in the last decade is the drastically increased productivity of Ukrainian workers. Matching the efforts of surrounding developing economies such as Poland’s, Ukraine has been able to increase output per employee by about 22%. The second development comes in the rapid emergence of an information and communications technology sector, resulting in more than $3.5 billion in exports and accounting for more than a 10th of foreign investment in 2017.
  4. Individuals with Ukrainian heritage have become founders and leaders of some of the most powerful companies on the planet. The founder of the international messaging service WhatsApp, Jan Koum, is Ukrainian. Max Levchin, PayPal co-founder, and Alexander Galitsky, co-inventor of Wi-Fi, are of Ukrainian descent as well. Perhaps the most famous Ukrainian is the co-founder of Apple, Steve Wozniak. Ukrainians have played integral roles in the creation of many global businesses, and they participate in the development of economies worldwide.
  5. Kiev, the capital and most populated city in Ukraine, is home to one of the world’s most rapidly developing start-up hubs. Ukraine also boasts one of the world’s largest outsourcing hubs. Tens of thousands of workers are outsourced to Ukraine from companies like Oracle and Google, resulting in a thriving industry in the heart of Ukraine. Outsourcing technology firms like AMC Bridge, Ciklum, Miratech and Sigma Software are only some of the Ukrainian companies listed on the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals’ annual list of the world’s best outsourcing companies.

Despite these advancements in technology in Ukraine, in its fight against poverty, Ukraine still has a long road ahead. Progress has occurred through the development of technology, but many other industries lag behind due to continued attacks on Ukrainian infrastructure. Though Ukraine does well with regard to foreign investment, there are many avenues to establish greater connectivity with the global market that remain unexplored, especially within the European Union. With continued government support and a strong start-up culture, Ukraine has the potential to become a country that provides prosperity to its population.

Pratik Koppikar
Photo: Flickr

Child Poverty in Ukraine
Ukraine has been severely impacted by COVID-19, and poverty rates will likely increase dramatically. The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine released an official prediction on the absolute poverty implications of the pandemic. The analysis indicates that the impacts on child poverty in Ukraine will be the most severe.

Ukraine is Europe’s second-biggest and second-poorest country, just behind Moldova. The country has more than 46,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of 3 July, 2020. Many of the restrictions imposed on the country have been lifted as the country enters its adaptive quarantine stage, though social distancing and mask-wearing requirements remain in place.

Ominous Predictions

According to the World Bank, the negative economic impact of the pandemic will show through several courses. These include a decrease in disposable incomes and consumption, lower remittances caused by decreased economic activity throughout the E.U. and lower commodity prices that impact Ukrainian exports.

UNICEF is particularly concerned that the economic collapse will have the most adverse impacts on vulnerable groups such as single parents, multiple-children households, households with children younger than 3 and single pensioners over the age of 65. UNICEF also predicts that the absolute poverty rate in Ukraine will rise from 27% to 44%, and the child poverty rate will rise from 33% to 51%. Under the less severe prediction, that would mean 6.3 million more people will be living in poverty than before, of whom 1.4 million will be children. The more severe prediction shows 9 million more people will be living in poverty, 1.8 million of them children. To put this in perspective, in 2019 50% of the population was financially unprotected. That will likely increase as poverty levels go up.

Government Action

To mitigate these stark numbers, the Ukrianian Government has taken action on the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis. These actions include one-time payments for low-income pensioners and child disability payment beneficiaries.

Unfortunately, these payments are insufficient to combat increasing absolute poverty and child poverty in Ukraine. UNICEF says that children who live in poverty are more likely to be poor as adults, an issue that actually goes deeper than poverty itself, as the most disadvantaged children usually have disabilities, are girls or belong to minorities. For the potential 1.4 to 1.8 million children that will live in poverty due to the pandemic, this poses an immense threat to their economic mobility in adulthood.

Social Policy Programme

A solution to combat the inevitable increase in child poverty in Ukraine due to this crisis is UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme.  Through advocacy and technical support to the Government of Ukraine, this program promotes equity for children and improved social welfare. It expands across four main areas.

  1. Poverty Reduction and Macro Policies for Children: To address the drivers of poverty and social exclusion, there is a focus on improved measuring of the multidimensional aspects of child poverty. To promote child-centered family policies, issues of child poverty will be in a leading position of the National Poverty Reduction Strategy.

  2. Social Protection with a Focus on Integrated Modalities: This will improve cash transfer performance in poverty reduction for vulnerable children and/or displaced children and their families. Social protection programs will expand with a strengthened, locally driven intersectoral approach. This goes beyond cash transfers and includes case management and local social service provision.

  3. Public Finance for Children: For maximum impact of public expenditure on children, UNICEF works with line ministries and the Ministry of Finance. Children’s rights are prioritized.

  4. Local Governance and Accountability with focus on Child-Friendly Cities: UNICEF Ukraine works with local partners to fully realize children’s rights. The Child Friendly Cities initiative is a global movement that strengthens social inclusion, promotes child and youth participation and incentivizes local authorities to invest in the overall well-being of children.

While the full impacts of the COVID-19 crisis are still unknown, and with the devastating impact it has on poverty, continuing to combat child poverty in Ukraine is vital. Social welfare programs like UNICEF’s Social Policy Programme are essential to mitigate the effects of poverty, strengthen child care and enhance access to basic services. Investing in children will have a substantial impact on the future, and it is a necessary measure to combat poverty in Ukraine and around the world.

Rochelle Gluzma
Photo: Flickr

Healthcare in UkraineThe quality of healthcare in Ukraine is under debate as the country remains in the midst of a war with Russia. Citizens are also paying immense expenses out of pocket.

According to Ukrainian law, healthcare is free. However, this is not the reality that many of the country’s citizens experience when seeking medical treatment. Instead, a recent poll suggested that only 10% of patients were able to afford treatment. People all around Ukraine are avoiding going to the hospital for lack of proper funds.

Problems Contributing to Ukraine’s Healthcare System

There is no universal healthcare system in place. After gaining its independence in 1991, Ukraine did not properly create a healthcare system that would guarantee its citizens free access to treatment. Many citizens who may have received care when the nation was part of the Soviet Union are now unable to.

Medical professionals are receiving incredibly low pay. While the average monthly salary in the country is approximately 389.14 USD, the average doctor in Ukraine will receive between 140 and 280 USD per month. Other medical professionals will likely make even less. This has resulted in many Ukrainian doctors seeking employment outside of the country after receiving their degree.

Government leadership for healthcare in Ukraine has been changing so frequently that the citizens lack belief in growth. In their 29 years of independence, Ukraine has seen 21 Ministers of Health. Additionally, the current acting Minister of Health, Uliana Suprun, is Ukrainian by descent. However, she was born in America, which some citizens find concerning.

Corruption is rampant within the system. Doctors have acknowledged a system of nonofficial payments. However, it is understood that without them, healthcare in Ukraine would collapse. Therefore, there are relatively few Ukrainian citizens able to pay under the table, while the others simply hope for recovery.

A Nation at Risk

Without a stable or affordable healthcare system, the health of Ukrainian citizens is severely at risk. This is affecting the nation as a whole. For example, the country’s life expectancy of 71.6 years falls well below that of the average for Europe and Central Asia, which is 78 years. Also, as of 2016, the probability of dying between 15 and 60 years for males was 26.4% but only 9.8% for females.

Physical and Mental Health

A large portion of Ukrainian citizens is also battling tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS compared to other Eastern European countries. A significant barrier to the treatment of tuberculosis in the country is the high percentage of citizens experiencing multi-drug resistant tuberculosis. However, agencies across the United States including USAID are working to contain the spread of the disease.

Another critical concern to consider is the mental health of Ukrainian citizens affected by the Russo-Ukrainian war. The war has been ongoing since 2014. It primarily affects the eastern side of Ukraine with more than 10,000 civilian deaths and 1.5 million displaced citizens. There is currently very little structure in place to treat mental health conditions within Ukraine. Therefore, mental health became another primary focus of the USAID.

Although the outlook of healthcare in Ukraine appears bleak, some citizens have faith in recent government movements. President Petro Poroshenko stepped into the Ukrainian office in 2014. He proposed healthcare reform centered around increasing medical professional pay and dissolving corruption within the system. This reform along with the Minister of Health spur hope in many who feel they have waited too long for change.

Aradia Webb
Photo: Pixabay

Corruption in Ukraine
Massive corruption in the Ukrainian government has left Ukraine and its people in a state of developmental stagnation for decades. Despite this, in recent years, Ukraine has demonstrated its willingness to reform and change for the better through countless efforts to expose and clean up these corruptions. These 10 facts outline the specifics of corruption in Ukraine.

10 Facts About Corruption in Ukraine

  1. Corruption: According to Transparency International (TI), as of 2018, Ukraine ranked 120 out of 182 countries in TI’s Corruptions Perception Index, making it the second most corrupt country in all of Europe. A survey from Freedom House also indicated that the level of corruption in Ukraine had only slightly alleviated since the fall of the particularly corrupt Yanukovych presidency in 2014.
  2. Tax Reforms: Tax reform continues to be a major barrier in the fight against corruption in Ukraine. Outrageous tax schemes and gross misuse of funds led to a 35 percent VAT compliance gap in the 2012-2013 fiscal year, compared to the 6 percent gap recorded in 2011. In 2014, new authority investigations found that $37 billion of the country’s overall budget disappeared due to fraudulent tax schemes. Experts speculate that during Yanukovych’s presidency, a total of $9 billion went unaccounted for and at least $2 billion of that went into the pockets of Yanukovych’s family coffers.
  3. Banking: Another major contribution to the corruption in Ukraine lies within its banking sector. The severity of corruption within Ukrainian banks became especially apparent during the 2014 banking crisis. Most banks involved themselves in the money-laundering Ponzi schemes. The banking systems were so corrupt that out of 182 of the nation’s banks, 98 of them have been or are in the process of being completely liquidated. Strict anti-money-laundering laws and tighter control over cash-flow have helped alleviate some of this corruption. In addition, banks that survived the crisis are now liable for any losses their clients suffer due to fraudulent banking practices.
  4. Government Accountability: Quintagroup aimed to reach a higher level of government accountability by creating a transparent electronic procurement system for officials to use. The system, ProZorro, allows users to view all procurements, government contracts and funds from electronic platforms, ensuring the transparency of public funding and procurement procedures. The Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Economy are among some of the government entities currently in the system. Since its 2014 launch, the system has saved Ukraine $1.1 billion in costs to the state, annually.
  5. Gas and Natural Resources: Ukraine’s elite took advantage of the discrepancy between subsidized and market gas prices, skimming billions of dollars from state funding. One major gas company, Naftogaz, is largely responsible for creating a domestic reliance on Russian-imported gas by penalizing domestic gas production and discouraging efficient energy methods. To combat this type of corruption in Ukraine, the IMF (International Monetary Fund) stepped in and insisted that the country equalize household and commercial gas tariffs and sought to improve transparency in the gas markets. With the reforms implemented by new officials, Naftogaz became a profitable contributor to the state budget and in 2018 accounted for 19.3 percent of state revenue. That revenue allowed UVG (a gas production subsidiary of Naftogaz) to boost domestic production by 4.2 percent in 2017.
  6. De-Monopolization: During Yanukovych’s presidency, the oligarch’s established formal and informal monopolies, both locally and nationwide. These monopolies formed under informal business agreements that provided corrupt officials total control over a sector of their choosing. In 2015, the State Anti-Monopoly carried out an examination of the condition of Ukraine’s various markets. The results indicated that only 42.7 percent of all markets were still competitive and 9.8 percent of them were still completely monopolized by corrupt government officials.
  7. Justice Systems: Distrust for the justice system in Ukraine is widespread. In fact, Ukraine ranked 101 out of 109 countries in the 2017 Index of Public Integrity. Opinion polls taken in 2016 recorded that only 3 to 5 percent of the population had any trust in the country’s justice system. In the same year, Ukraine took its first steps towards judicial improvement with the establishment of a new Supreme Court. This did little to gain public trust, however, as recruitment of new judicial officials was only half-way transparent. The Public Integrity Council of Ukraine found that 25 out the 113 new judges were unfit.
  8. Higher Education: Surprisingly, another major facet of corruption in Ukraine lies within the country’s institutions of higher education. Bribery demands from professors, deans and department boards have increased in recent years and show no sign of slowing down. According to a student/teacher violation monitoring website, students attending these institutions reported more than 400 violations, 41 percent of them being related to bribery. To combat this widespread corruption, the Ukrainian Parliament passed a law in 2012 that required institutions to post all financial documents online. Despite this effort, only a very small portion of universities actually complied with the new requirement.
  9. Deregulation: Since the Maiden Revolution of 2014, Ukraine has abolished several corrupted agencies and costly, dated regulations through deregulation. Among the various government agencies that Ukraine abolished for high levels of corruption were the Price Inspectorate, Traffic Police Inspectorate and the Real Estate Registration Agency. Between 2014 and 2015, the country also got rid of price regulations while it reassessed and updated others accordingly.
  10. Law Enforcement: Reform in Ukraine’s law enforcement sector is slow-moving and still largely operates under communist influence. But, in 2014 an organization known as the patrol police emerged. The patrol service has developed a positive reputation for recruiting and training officials according to a much higher standard than officers working under the country’s primary police force. In the years since its creation, the patrol service has enlisted 13,000 officers in 33 different cities nationwide. The organization accounts for only a small portion of the country’s law enforcement, but its continuing growth, increased backing from international partners and civil society organizations have proven it to be an entity dedicated to ending corruption in Ukraine.

Despite endemic corruption in Ukraine, its people have clearly not given up on improving their quality of life through reform. Since 2014, Ukraine has taken strides, big and small, to combat corrupt systems and has proven that it is capable of change.

Ashlyn Jensen
Photo: Flickr