HIV/AIDS Treatment in UkraineThe ongoing war in Ukraine has contributed greatly to poverty both inside and outside of the country. One contributor is the huge interruption the war enforced on HIV and AIDS diagnosis and treatment in the country. Due to the safety risk, 30 medical institutions that provided these services had to close their doors, putting the lives of patients at great risk by restricting their treatment. However, organizations like the Global Fund and the UNAIDS program have provided emergency HIV/AIDS treatment in Ukraine that has served to combat this, thus softening the effect of the war on those living with HIV/AIDS.

HIV/AIDS in Ukraine Before the War

The prevalence rate of HIV/AIDS in Ukraine comes to 0.9%, higher than the world average of 0.7% and one of the highest infection rates in Europe. However, the country looked like it was turning a corner, as in the early 2010s, rates of infection started to decline. This was caused by higher investments in antiretroviral treatment and more support for opioid drug users, who were at higher risk of contracting the disease.

The Effect of the War

After the conflict began in 2014, according to the country director of the UNAIDS program Jacek Tymszko, “HIV totally disappeared from the agenda.” It made providing these vital services much more difficult. More than 30% of people living with HIV/AIDS have experienced an interruption in their treatment since the war began, according to UNAIDS. Equally, many faced displacement as a result of the war and therefore struggled to access these services simply because they no longer had a permanent home.

Emergency HIV/AIDS Treatment

However, due to the help of organizations and programs that focus on providing emergency HIV/AIDS treatment in Ukraine, many HIV/AIDS patients have been able to continue living as normal. In March 2022, the Global Fund provided over $15 million of emergency funding to Ukraine to maintain HIV and TB testing and treatment services and an additional $10.3 million donation in February. These provisions have contributed to retrofitting vans to deliver medicines to patients, community-led organizations that link patients to HIV and TB services and mental health services specifically for those with the disease.

The U.N. has also contributed to providing emergency HIV/AIDS treatment to Ukraine through the Joint United Nationals Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). It released an initial $200,000 in emergency funding in February 2023 to support the seven cities facing significant HIV epidemics. This provided first-aid training and kits to community-based organizations aiming to sustain HIV services, direct humanitarian assistance to those living with HIV with food certificates and STI testing kits and providing shelters for displaced people.

Results of Support

Due to the support of organizations such as the Global Fund and UNAIDS, there has been a reduction in the impact of the war on those living with HIV/AIDS. However, there are still those living with HIV/AIDS that are suffering as a result of the war, highlighting the need for more effort. Prior to the war, the Word Bank estimated that 260,000 people were living with HIV in Ukraine. Since then, around 15,000 of these people have lost treatment due to displacement. There is still room for more support to help affected people access life-saving services and prevent the disease from spreading.

– Erin Latham
Photo: Flickr

USAID SuccessesThe United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is the nation’s premier agency for delivering foreign aid. Its website says its mission is to promote “efforts to save lives, reduce poverty, strengthen democratic governance and help people progress beyond assistance.” Although it is based in the United States (U.S.), the agency operates all around the world, providing humanitarian aid. As an organization that has been around for more than 60 years, it has involved itself in various undertakings and acts of service. The following are some recent USAID successes.

COVID-19 Pandemic

Due to the impact of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, people all over the world, especially those who live in poverty require assistance. The organization recognizes this, with one of the prominent recent USAID successes on its website being its COVID-19 response. The organization provided more than $10.6 billion in efforts to make the U.S. a global leader in the fight against the Coronavirus. After vaccines were released, the country also aimed to make a difference there. To that end, the organization distributed more than 682 million vaccines to 116 countries. This success was built on previous work. For example, in the U.S., it was the domestic American Rescue Plan that was put in place to deal with the pandemic. In fact, USAID had been dealing with pandemics for years, from Ebola to malaria.

Crisis in Sudan

In more recent news, USAID has been closely monitoring the ongoing political crisis in Sudan. The organization highlighted issues such as the continuing food crisis, lack of medical care and gender-based violence. Already the biggest provider of foreign aid to Sudan, the U.S. worked with USAID alongside other international partners to coordinate its response. In April 2023, USAID administrator Samantha Power announced that a Disaster Assistance Response Team (DART) was set up in Kenya, as well as a Response Management Team in Washington D.C. Operatives on the ground are providing food, water and maternal health care.

Earthquakes in Haiti

In 2021, a massive 7.2 earthquake struck Haiti, killing 2,200 people and leaving 600,000 in need of assistance. Responding swiftly, USAID mobilized a response team on the day of the earthquake. Despite the unpredictability of earthquakes, Haiti’s 2010 earthquake prepared the team for the worst possible outcomes. Search and Rescue workers were able to do immediate work assessing the damage. USAID led the way in international efforts to provide aid. One year later, it provided nearly $60 million in humanitarian assistance for people in the worst affected areas.

The War in Ukraine

During wartime, there is a need for people to stay connected, not just with loved ones, but with fellow citizens. Apart from USAID offering humanitarian aid, it is also working with contemporary social media. In 2020, Ukraine launched the Diia app, which gives ordinary citizens more of a voice in their government and promotes their businesses. The organization provided additional funding to improve the app and expand its services during the war. This turned out to be even more necessary after the Russian invasion, where Diia helped with sharing information about airstrikes.

USAID also credited the app, noting that half of Ukraine’s adult population has downloaded it. Ukraine would like to expand the app to countries in the global south, and Moldova has shown an interest. This is still a new program, with only $650,000 set aside to promote its development thus far. But based on the trends in Ukraine, it could do great things in politically unstable countries in the future.

Fighting Hardship

These recent USAID successes show the scope of the agency’s work in fighting hardship across the world. It works with many global organizations to deliver help to countries that are less fortunate. From its robust response to the COVID-19 pandemic, including vaccine distribution, to its swift assistance in crisis-stricken regions like Sudan and Haiti, USAID has demonstrated its commitment to saving lives and alleviating suffering. Additionally, its support for innovative initiatives like the Diia app in Ukraine showcases the agency’s dedication to fostering connectivity, empowerment and progress in politically unstable regions.

– Josh Sobchak
Photo: Flickr

Education in UkraineThe war in Ukraine, initiated by Russia’s invasion in November 2022, has inflicted severe consequences on the lives and education of numerous children. UNICEF reports indicate that more than 5 million children have encountered disruptions to their education as a result of the conflict. This further compounds the challenges already presented by the COVID-19 pandemic and the prior war in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, the war has led to the displacement of more than 6 million Ukrainians, including approximately 665,000 students and more than 25,000 educators. These individuals now face difficulties accessing education services in their host countries or regions. The aforementioned accounts underscore that the impact of the war on education extends beyond a humanitarian crisis; it also jeopardizes the future of an entire generation of Ukrainians, who may endure learning setbacks and diminished prospects.

The Impact of War on Education in Ukraine

The war has left children without the necessary education. During wartime, schools and other educational facilities became targets of Russian attacks. According to the official report of the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine, 3,246 educational institutions, including kindergartens and universities have been damaged. In Eastern Ukraine, the destruction is most significant. The most affected educational institutions are in the Zaporizhzhia region where Russians destroyed 175 institutions. Russian troops tore down 69 institutions in the Donetsk region, 52 in the Kharkiv region and 23 in the Kherson region.

Air raid sirens during the day force pupils to go to the basement and continue studying there. When classes are online there are problems with the Internet due to regular blackouts. The situation in the east of Ukraine is unstable. Russians force Ukrainian teachers to conduct classes in Russian language and narrative. As a result, parents preferably choose not to let their children go to classes.

Ongoing Efforts

As a part of a solution to help maintain an educational level in the country, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine launched an initiative that aims to support children and parents and ensure that every kid gets an opportunity to learn. UNICEF also made provisions for 1,000 schools across Ukraine and help each one get ready for the winter period.

Ukrainian volunteers together with the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine have launched SchoolToGo. The project is offering free online school classes to everyone from 1st to 11th grade. The lessons developed by the teachers and psychologists are fully accredited and comply with a basic school program. Also, SchoolToGo offers psychological support for children if they need it. SchoolToGo defines its mission as “so that every Ukrainian child, with the help of our platform, gets into a class with Ukrainian-speaking teachers and classmates again, and does not feel lonely.”

Looking Ahead

Despite the devastating impact of the war in Ukraine on education, ongoing efforts by the Ministry of Education, UNICEF, and volunteers aim to provide support and opportunities for children. Initiatives like “Together to Study” and SchoolToGo offer shelter goods, winter preparation and free online school classes to ensure access to education. These projects prioritize the well-being and academic development of Ukrainian children, striving to overcome the challenges posed by the conflict and promote a sense of community.

– Anna Konovalenko
Photo: Flickr

Peecycling ProcessThe war in Ukraine has steeply increased the price of natural gas, a major component of fertilizers and also a primary source of energy. This, combined with the sanctions imposed on Russia, one of the world’s top exporters of nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus fertilizers (contributing about 15%, 19% and 14% of the global supply respectively), is causing a severe fertilizer shortage. Amid this food catastrophe, a branch of sustainable food developers, going by the name “peecyclers,” have found a promising solution: using human urine as a suitable alternative to fertilizers by implementing the peecycling process.

Prices of fertilizers are skyrocketing worldwide, forcing farmers to produce less, and thus, unintentionally harming their livelihoods. This ripple is also extending into the food market, with the FAO Food Price Index reaching an all-time high of 159.7 points in March 2022.

Benefits of Using Human Urine as Fertilizer

  • Urine is rich in nutrients. About 80% of the nitrogen and 66% of the phosphorus that human beings release as waste comes in the form of urine. Both these elements are vital in the making of fertilizers.
  • In research conducted as early as 2010 in Finland, researchers planted four plots of beets and treated them with different fertilizers. Researchers fertilized one of the plots solely with urine and fertilized another with urine and wood ash. After 84 days, the researchers harvested 280 beets. The research concluded that the two samples  fertilized with urine and a combination of urine/ash were “10% and 27% larger by mass, respectively, than those grown in mineral fertilizer.” Moreover, researchers noted no reduction in the number of nutrients contained in all samples, proving that urine is not a lesser substitute and can stand as an effective fertilizer.
  • About 125 gallons of urine can help produce 320 pounds of wheat as urine is both organic and rich in nutrients. Using urine could reduce the pollution that arises from using nitrogen and phosphorus fertilizers.
  • Urine diversion is the process of collecting urine separately and using it for productive purposes. It also helps conserve freshwater and reduces the number of water bodies polluted by sewage waste.
  • Urine is readily available, and hence, is much cheaper than synthetic fertilizers. Although the initial infrastructural costs of peecyling may be expensive, the cost of production for farmers could come to be much less in the future, spurring profits.
  • Flushed urine has nutrients that are difficult to remove. By diverting urine for other purposes, wastewater treatment becomes much less costly as nitrogen and phosphorus are easy to remove.

How the Peecycling Process Works

A variety of systems, including cups, jugs and special toilets with attached plumbed tanks, were designed to aid the process of urine diversion. These instruments are easy to use and once the urine is collected, it is transported to the site of treatment.

The process of sterilizing urine is simpler than doing the same for feces. All one has to do to destroy the remaining pathogens is keep the collected urine between temperatures of 71-75 degrees Fahrenheit for about three months.

Urine is 95% water, and therefore, requires significant storage capacity. This is expensive, but there are ways to concentrate urine through various processes such as evaporation, distillation and reverse osmosis. One particularly effective process is “alkaline urine dehydration.” This involves raising the pH value of urine to reduce its volume and convert it into fertilizer.

Peecycling Projects Underway

  1. The NGO Rich Earth Institute implemented the Urine Nutrient Reclamation Program. It is a urine donation program in Vermont that is educating people on the benefits of using urine as a fertilizer and mobilizing them to donate the “liquid gold.” In 2021, the organization collected more than 12,000 gallons of urine and had “four farm partners who [applied] the urine to their hay fields.” One of them, Noah Hoskins, commented that he saw “very strong results from the urine” after applying it at the Bunker Farm in Dummerston.
  2. In Niger, female farmers have implemented the usage of sanitized urine (referred to as “Oga” by the natives) to fertilize crops in areas where the soil is infertile. The peecycling process for them has proven to produce a higher yield of pearl millet, their staple crop, by about 30%. This means more profit for the farmers because urine is a low-cost, risk-free input.
  3. A team of researchers associated with the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala, Sweden, is trying to expand the peecycling process into a large-scale process that every region in the world can emulate. The Gotland project started in 2021 and is carrying out its experiments with urine on barley fields. The researchers developed a process that converts urine into a powder, which is then easily compressed into fertilizer pellets. Such equipment is easy for farmers to use on a daily basis.
  4. Certain regions in Uganda, where there are limited “soil nutrient management” options, use urine to increase crop production. The research began on a small scale in 2014. Published in the Journal of Cleaner Production, the experiment concluded that human urine is indeed advantageous for smallholder farmers as it increased their food security and income.

A lot of potential is yet to be unpacked from human urine and scientists are on top of it. Nevertheless, one thing is certain: the peecycling process provides a feasible solution to global fertilizer shortages, ensuring food security worldwide.

– Anushka Raychaudhuri
Photo: Flickr

War in Ukraine
As the war in Ukraine continues, many begin to think about the consequences that are going to result from it. One can already see some of the consequences of the damage done in Ukraine. From a humanitarian perspective, this war will have severe consequences on poverty around the world. The impact war has on poverty does not always get the most attention. However, it is just as important as the other consequences that come from war.

War and Poverty

People often overlook those living in poverty during war as well as how greatly it affects the demographic. For example, damage to infrastructure and the economy can set a country back in the progress previously made in minimizing poverty. It also makes the living conditions of those living in poverty worse. War affects poverty and poverty has impacts on war as well. Countries with lower GDPs have a higher possibility of conflict. Poverty can reduce a government’s ability to prevent conflict as well.

Poverty in Ukraine Before the War

Poverty in Ukraine has always fluctuated. According to a UNICEF article, absolute poverty reached peak values in 2001 and 2015 in Ukraine. Poverty in Ukraine was declining from 2015 to 2019. In 2020, poverty began to rise again in part due to the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Impacts on Poverty from the War in Ukraine

The war in Ukraine has already caused damage to infrastructure, economy, unemployment and inflation. According to the New York Times, the damage Russia has caused to Ukraine’s infrastructure is more than $119 billion as of March 14, 2022. The damage caused is detrimental to Ukraine’s infrastructure and poverty rate. The loss of life and displacement of Ukrainian people will cause a rise in poverty. UNDP tweeted that “According to our early projections, almost one-third of Ukrainians could fall into poverty within a year and an additional 62% are at risk of falling into poverty.” Ukraine is not the only country that is going to feel the impacts of this war. Countries all over the world are facing an increase in prices of products and goods such as gas and food. The Center for Global Development stated, “Our analysis suggests the scale of the price spike will push over 40 million into extreme poverty.” The entire world is going to feel the impact of the war in Ukraine.


In an effort to help those in Ukraine, the United Nations Foundation has created a link on its webpage so anyone can donate. The U.N. is providing humanitarian assistance by using money from the Central Emergency Response Fund as well as providing assistance on the ground. According to the United Nations Foundation, “The UN is on the ground delivering life-saving humanitarian assistance and support to the people of Ukraine.” Local governments are also creating programs to provide aid. In Northern Virginia, the collection of necessities such as blankets and coats for Ukrainian refugees began on March 23, 2022. The World Food Programme (WFP) has also been providing food assistance. An article from WFP stated that its operation will be working towards providing assistance to people inside of Ukraine and neighboring countries. 

A Look Ahead

The effects of poverty will be more detrimental the longer the war in Ukraine continues. Ukraine was making progress in eliminating poverty before COVID-19 and is now going to see a significant increase in the number of people facing economic hardships. The entire world will be affected by this increase as well.

Anna Deutsch
Photo: Flickr

How the Media Misrepresents UkraineOften, the media misrepresents Ukraine in the news by focusing on the ongoing war in the country. This has been the case ever since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 that produced the conflict. Over the years, coverage of the war between the Ukrainian government and Russian separatists has dwindled but remains the focus whenever a story appears, either that or the dire situations and struggles the war has caused. While covering the war and its causes does a great job of highlighting the humanitarian crisis it has created by displacing thousands of Ukrainians who continue to struggle, it does little to portray their beautiful culture and country.

Whenever the media misrepresents Ukraine, due to its proximity to Russia and perhaps the association between the two countries, it is often thought that the two countries share very similar cultures and landscapes. Beyond this, media portrayal makes the country seem as though it is always in conflict and struggle. Neither of these assumptions is the case. Ukraine is a unique Slavic country, with its own language, customs, and a rich cultural history.

Ukraine’s Geography and Climate

Physically, Ukraine is unique in that it has a wider, warmer range of climates than most would assume. Spanning from the north where it borders Poland, Belarus and Russia, the climate is temperate, down to the Black Sea, where the climate is warm enough to be considered Mediterranean and winters can be quite mild. This means the country also holds a variety of stunning landscapes from the Carpathian mountains to beaches found in the city of Odessa.

Cultural History of Ukraine

Among these serene landscapes sit a variety of cities such as the capital of Kiev. With most cities and even towns in Ukraine, cultural history is honored by many historical buildings with stunning architecture that stand among the modern ones. While Ukrainians honor their past through these buildings, museums and classical art galleries, they don’t hesitate from making this legacy endure through experimental forms of cultural expression as well as by continuing with the classics. In the urban hubs of Ukraine’s larger cities, a variety of artistic expression can be found in performance art, literature, modern galleries, and through the long-standing tradition of Ukrainian folk art.

Ukrainian Hospitality

When focusing on the upheaval and chaos caused by the ongoing conflicts, the media misrepresents Ukraine by neglecting to display the generosity and friendliness of the country’s people even as they face these struggles. It is a part of the Ukrainian culture to be as generous and hospitable as possible to others. While Ukrainians are warm and care for their friends and family, they also treat their guests with equal care so much so that not offering food and drinks to a guest, especially while having some for yourself, is considered rather rude. No matter the occasion, Ukrainians always make sure their guests feel comfortable and at home by providing them with food, beverages and kindness even if they have little to offer.


In stark contrast with the media portrayal of Ukraine, the country and its people are unique in every way. The Ukrainians, their traditions and culture have to be contrasted with the humanitarian crisis caused by the ongoing war, rather than focusing solely on the war. The media has to show just how much Ukraine has been affected and how dire the situation is for those caught in the war zone. Ukraine is not just a country in constant conflict but one with a rich culture and history which will survive this conflict or any others it may face.

– Keegan Struble

Photo: Flickr