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

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

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

10 Facts about Life Expectancy in Ukraine

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

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

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

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

– John Glade
Photo: Flickr

Refugees in Ukraine

The conflict in eastern Ukraine has taken nearly 10,000 lives just since 2014, and the casualties continue to rise as the conflict becomes tenser.

Many of the refugees in Ukraine have been internally displaced – some have fled to cities that are actually close to the conflict like Kharkiv and Zaporizhia while others have left to their neighboring nations.

The 1.4 million internally displaced Ukrainians are victims of a hidden humanitarian crisis where families are displaced in run-down apartments or other vacant buildings instead of typical refugee. UNHCR has been providing shelter repairs for these internally displaced people after the damage in the eastern region. However, many are still without accommodation or have lost their homes.

Many of these Ukrainians fled to the Russian Federation. During the worst time of conflict Russia made a significant effort to assist refugees in Ukraine by providing housing and dispatching humanitarian convoys regularly. However, Russia recently has dialed back on their efforts and is accepting far fewer refugees. Ukrainians now flee to Belarus, Poland, and Germany where they find aid from various organizations such as the Ukrainian Samaritan Federation.

The Ukrainian Samaritan Federation has partnered with the ASB in Ukraine to provide assistance to the refugees. They have donated over $30,000 while aid has also come from seven other European Samaritan Associations.

These funds are meant to ensure that the refugees continue to have medical care, particularly for the injured activists. Refugees have also received over 200,000 food parcels as well as 4,000 winter aid parcels. The volunteers at SSU have spent countless hours providing relief supplies and have even provided safe shelter for many refugees.

In order to improve life back home, USAID has installed the Ukraine Confidence Building Initiative to create a more stable nation and provide short-term assistance to Ukraine in its transition to democracy. Assistance comes in the form of grants for goods, services and technical support to help communities to mitigate the effects of conflict in the east. The goal is to make this a stable and peaceful transition to resolve this conflict so that the refugees may eventually return to their homes and rejoin their families.

– Amanda Panella

Photo: Flickr

Water Crisis in Eastern Ukraine
Unrest in Ukraine began in the fall of 2013, when Ukraine did not sign an agreement with the European Union. Students and other young people began engaging in demonstrations and protests in the capital city, Kiev, with the objective of fighting corruption in their country. The situation became more unstable with Russian invasions of the Crimea region and violence against pro-Russian rebels in the Debaltseve region of eastern Ukraine, which continue despite ceasefire agreements. The Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine were hit particularly hard by the conflicts.

Over the past two years, approximately 6,000 lives have been lost due to fighting, and a further 13,961 have been wounded. 5.2 million are currently living in conflict areas. 978,482 have been internally displaced, including 119,832 children. 600,000 Ukrainian citizens have fled to neighboring countries, with 400,000 escaping to Russia.

While many have left conflict zones, others have stayed for various reasons. They may have feared facing worse dangers if they tried to leave, wanted to protect their family or property or been physically unable to move. Those trapped in conflict zones are often forced to hide away in basements with little food and no heat or electricity. Many are also lacking one very important resource: water.

There is currently a water crisis in Eastern Ukraine that could easily become worse. 1.3 million have been affected, especially in Donetsk and Luhansk. Damaged and destroyed water lines and water shortages have caused suffering for many. In non-government controlled areas of Luhansk, citizens rely on trucks bringing supplies or must travel to neighboring villages for safe drinking water. The city of Mariupol, located in Donsetsk, is relying on a depleting water storage reservoir.

The situation has worsened over the past month due to little rainfall and hot summer temperatures. The risk of waterborne disease will increase if people are unable to properly store and transport water. It is difficult to move supplies across borders between government and non-government controlled areas, which could be due to rebel forces directly preventing the delivery of aid to certain cities. The need is more urgent than ever.

UNICEF is currently helping those in Donetsk and Luhansk access safe water and has assisted 550,000 people since January 2015. 54,000 have also received additional hygiene supplies. However, UNICEF will need to raise significant funds to continue providing these services. Another organization providing aid to Ukraine is United Helping Ukraine. This 100 percent volunteer-based group works on fundraising, raising awareness of the crisis and holding rallies in support of Ukraine’s independence. They also have been distributing food, medical supplies and other donations to families affected by the conflict.

Jane Harkness

Sources: BBC, CNN, Harvard University, Reuters, UNICEF, United Help Ukraine, Voice of America
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in Russia has been a prevailing issue for years now, but a host of causes has finally brought it to its worst point yet.

According to a recent report by Rosstat, a Russian state statistics service, the amount of people living below the poverty line in Russia hit 22.9 million earlier this year. Russia’s population was roughly 144 million at the end of 2014.

Russia’s poverty crisis has worsened steadily over the past few years due primarily to embargos and resulting inflation. As a result of Russia’s involvement in the Ukraine crisis, many countries embargoed food imports to Moscow. This caused inflation in the country to rise to 16.9%, its highest point in 13 years.

“Unfortunately, predictions are coming true: According to official statistics, the number of poor people has reached 22 million,” Deputy Prime Minister Olga Golodets told a Russian television station.

Additional Western sanctions have caused a steep decline in the price of oil, Russia’s largest export, further damaging the country’s economy and job market. In 2014, the amount of social service agency employees in Russia was cut by 6.5%. Experts are predicting that far more job cuts will follow, affecting 33 different regions of the country over the next few years.

Poverty in Russia is also proving to be immensely damaging to education. According to the Accounts Chamber report, 9,500 towns with populations between 300 and 1,500 had no preschool facilities, and one-third of these towns had no public transportation.

Between this year and 2018, 5.6% of Russia’s preschools are expected to close, as well as 6% of primary and secondary schools, 14.7% of orphanages and 16.1% of vocational schools.

As conditions in Russia continue to worsen, work must continue to be done to improve the quality of life within the country.

Alexander Jones

Sources: World Socialist Web Site, International Business Times, Moscow Times
Photo: Business Insider

Over 6,000 people have died from the conflict and ongoing violence in Ukraine. Civil unrest is often fueled by political discontent and the perceived ramifications for the country’s future generations. Children can often provide a rallying cry for opposing sides of any conflict to galvanize and fight for their supposed best interests.

However, conflicting forces, far too often, champion the importance of their children’s future without taking into account their children’s present. This high degree of turmoil and chaos has a far-reaching effect on children. The scope of Ukraine’s destruction is, in fact, not fully understood until the plight of the children is realized. Thousands of Ukrainian children have been orphaned, displaced or forced to take refuge in shelters.

Much of the fighting in early 2015 took place in Eastern Ukraine in the Donetsk region. The town of Debaltseve, in particular, received a heavy dosage of the destruction. The violence left only one functioning kindergarten for the town, and its director, Zoya Ovcharenko, set out searching the multitude of shelters and basements for displaced children, urging them to come back to school.

While children may be too young to understand why there is fighting, they are not too young to understand the fear that comes with it. Being forced out of school and into shelters disrupts their sense of normalcy and causes severe psychological trauma. Often times, children are left to cope with their nightmares themselves.

With the help of the de facto Ministry of Emergency, Ovcharenko was able to enroll 35 children in her school, which had been in the midst of a battle zone only weeks prior.

While the school was in a deteriorated, but functional state, the children appeared to be in far worse condition. “It became clear to us that we would not be able to deal with the trauma we saw in the children, even if our staff is very experienced,” Ovcharenko recalls.

This past March, a mobile team of psychologists in collaboration with UNICEF arrived to begin working with the young children. One of the psychologists, Valentina Nikolaeva remembers her initial reaction after meeting the children. “When we first saw the children in March, they had visible signs of trauma. They did not touch others, and they did not want to be touched. They were scared when they heard loud noises.”

In an assessment, students were asked to draw their ideas of “safe places” and many of the children drew bomb shelters, fortresses or barricaded houses. These results clearly indicate the violence caused a contorted sense of safety.

The team works with the children three times per week in small groups of 4 to 6 children per psychologist. After a short while of consistent playing and nurturing, the children began to show signs of recovery. “We saw results in just a week’s time… the children adapted back to normal life, and they laughed again” states Ovcharenko.

As another means of assessment, the students are asked to choose their favorite colors for the day. The psychologists have noticed that more often, the children are choosing brighter colors. The frequency of their color choices has a direct correlation with their improving conditions. Ovcharenko’s school enrollment has now grown to almost 80 children.

In an effort to expand the psychological treatment of the displaced youth, UNICEF Ukraine has been receiving funding from the Swedish International Development Agency. To date, UNICEF has served over 11,000 displaced Ukrainian children and has trained over 100 psychologists and support teachers.

– The Borgen Project

Photo: Voice of America

Refugee Convoy Attack in Ukraine - The Borgen Project
More than dozens were found perished in a refugee attack on a civilian convoy running away from constant fighting in eastern Ukraine, with the Ukraine government and pro-Russian separatists both putting the blame on each other, according to news source Al Jazeera.

The attack, being described as a “bloody crime,” by a spokesman, has had several people killed, including some women and children. The number perished is currently being established; however, it is known that the toll could be put in dozens.

“The barrage had taken place last Monday morning between the cities of Khryashchuvate and Novosvitlivka, close to the rebel city of Luhansk,” said a Ukraine military spokesman.

As reported by news source BBC, the Ukrainian military has claimed that many have perished due to the influx of rockets and mortars demolishing vehicles moving the refugees from the Luhansk area of eastern Ukraine.

Another military spokesman proclaimed that several people had been burned alive inside the vehicles; however, a spokesman for the rebels who are named “Donetsk People’s Republic, “refused the idea that rebel forces had deliberated the attack on the convoy.

According to Reuters, the convoy was involved with ferocious fighting mainly between government forces and the separatists when the fire erupted from rebel Grad and mortar launchers, many spokesmen stated.

According to news source BBC News, it is known that more than 2,000 civilians and fighters have perished since the middle of April, a time in which Ukraine’s government had sent troops to overthrow the rebel uprising in the east.

The separatist rebels have been conspicuously sighted as ambushing a row of cars holding refugees attempting to escape the war in eastern Ukraine. This allegation can be confirmed according to news source New York Times. Ukrainian military officials have accused the separatists vehemently throughout, but the separatists, however, have denied that there has been no attack at all and they are not to be held responsible for the incident.

Luhansk, a city of 250,000 people, is a region where currently civilians are suffering heavy amount of shortages of water, food and electricity.

At the moment, Ukrainian forces are edging into the outskirts of Luhansk, where supplies such as food and water are running out for them.

During a briefing in Kiev, Colonel Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian military, has stated that “terrorists” had ambushed the refugee convoy with Grad rocket systems and several other large weapons for combat supplied by Russia.

This could be considered a deadly episode for civilians, as according to the New York Times, separatists have begun to take control of cities and towns in this region approximately more than four months ago.

With over 2,000 people perished and more than 5,000 wounded in Ukraine, a representative for the United Nations human rights office claimed last week, with approximately more than half of the deaths currently happening in just these last two weeks.

The news of civilian deaths has been a grave situation as efforts for diplomacy to find a solution to the Ukraine crisis have been unsuccessful since last Monday; during conversations in Berlin among the foreign ministers of Germany, France, Ukraine and Russia.

Recently, the United States State Department has condemned the attack; however, it stated that it could not confirm who was responsible.

According to news source Reuters, State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said, “We strongly condemn the shelling and rocketing of a convoy that was bearing internally displaced persons in Luhansk … Sadly, they were trying to get away from the fighting and instead became victims of it.”

The week of August 25, a solution was implemented for the first time in several months. This solution is meant to attempt to end the confrontation between Russian president Vladimir Putin and his Ukrainian counterpart. While both their meetings will hold several issues regarding the Ukraine Convoy Attack, their final solution is intended to mend the situation regarding the separatist rebellion in eastern Ukraine.

— Noor Siddiqui

Sources: Reuters, Reuters 2, CNN, Al Jazeera, BBC, New York Times Click On Detroit
Photo: Bloomberg