Lara Kajs | 10 October 2022 |
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on 24 February 2022, eleven million people have been displaced, with more than four million crossing the borders into other countries. Ukraine’s most vulnerable are the (at least) seven million internally displaced in the embattled country. Sixty percent of families are trapped inside the borders, trying to avoid conflict and violence. The majority are children and women.
Millions of people are without food, water, and electricity in thousands of cities and towns throughout Ukraine. Conditions on the ground make it impossible to determine the number of casualties, but officials estimate that at least 15,000 people have been killed, approximately 400 of them children. The actual number is expected to be much higher. There is evidence of deliberate killing, targeting civilians. In recent days, there was the discovery of mass graves in which civilians were shot – with their hands and feet bound. Global leaders have called for investigations and charges of war crimes against Mr. Putin.
For those who remained in Ukraine, the greatest threats, besides avoiding the conflict, are the lack of food, lack of access to heating, and the collapse of the health system, as medical supplies and services have been constrained. Vulnerable groups such as the disabled, persons who are immovable, the elderly, young children, pregnant women, and chronic illnesses are considered high risk. Smaller clinics and hospitals in remote locations have had to take on the burden of care for the influx of injuries. Critical concerns are not infectious diseases, but chronic diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease, and cancers.
The number of people trapped in their own cities and pinned down under intense shelling by Russian forces continues to increase daily, most notably in the towns of Mariupol, Mykolaiv, Donetsk, Chernihiv, and Kharkiv. Desperate residents in the town of Mariupol have gone without food, water, power, and heat for many days. In Mykolaiv, residents fled their beds during the night to shelling. Across Ukraine, two hundred schools, thirty-four hospitals, and thousands of residential buildings have been destroyed, all of which constitute war crimes.
Humanitarian Relief and Care
As displaced persons move across borders into neighboring countries such as Poland, Hungary, and Moldova, health infrastructures there are also feeling the strain. Humanitarian groups, such as the International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without Borders, as well as many UN agencies, are providing services at the borders and at train stations to tend to the needs of refugees.
Repeated requests by the UN and other humanitarian agencies for all warring parties to pause the fighting and allow safe passage for those who are willing and able to flee have not been honored.
Ukraine’s most vulnerable people have become collateral damage to unprovoked violence for which they have no responsibility. The invasion and conflict not only impact Ukraine, as well as the countries receiving the millions fleeing, but it also has a much farther reach. As Ukraine is a leading exporter of grain, the conditions in the country have exacerbated hunger across the MENA region (the Middle East and Northern Africa). The only solution is for this war to end. #PeaceforUkraine.
Photo Credit: Russia Ukraine War – Loss and horror during week of burials and tears – Ukrainian Nicolai, 41, says goodbye to his daughter Elina, 4, and his wife Lolita, on a train bound for Poland fleeing from the war at the train station in Lviv, western Ukraine, Friday, April 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti) License by CC 2.0