December 5, 2017
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The fighting in the eastern region of Ukraine split the region into areas under separatist control and areas under government control. As a result, getting access to healthcare became extremely difficult for many people – medical staff fled the region, accessing transportation to clinics became harder, and high numbers of internally displaced people put further pressure on already stretched health facilities.
Doctors of the World started working in the Luhansk region of eastern Ukraine in August 2015. We not only offer healthcare for those affected by the conflict but also provide free medication, access to primary healthcare, mental health services, and support for victims of gender-based violence.
We have three mobile units in Luhansk that support local health facilities, and currently provide around 40-50 medical consultations a day to patients who would otherwise not have access to primary healthcare. We also make referrals to secondary and tertiary healthcare facilities, as well as helping to cover any transportation costs and medical fees.
One of the most important aspects of our work in Ukraine is the mental health support we provide the communities that are affected by the conflict. We spoke to one of our patients, Ludmila (right), about the effects the conflict has had on her child.
“I started coming to the psychologist mainly because of the crisis. I’m really scared and fear for my child. I’m raising him on my own and he has already begun to react badly to everything that’s going on.
He was less than 3 years old when it started. My son used to hide under the kitchen furniture when there was shelling. Due to the panic and fear I started suffering from a deep depression and had a nervous breakdown. I often think “How will my baby come through this? How will I survive with him?”
Ludmila is just one of the thousands of people trying to cope with the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.
We also spoke to Alina Zinnik, our psychologist working in Ukraine.
“I’ve been working for Doctors of the World for 1 year, and during my time here we’ve been working through the ongoing conflict in the east of Ukraine. Many people need help and fortunately we’re able to help them. Here in the conflict zone, local people begin to feel bad in variety of ways. They have a lot of stress, find it difficult to sleep, and often have mental health issues such as anxiety or depression.
We know all of our patients very well, but people had to get used to us and understand that they can trust us. Most of work is building trust and providing educational information about psychology.
Sometimes we see patients who have suicidal tendencies. They walk specifically along paths that they know could be booby-trapped and dangerous. But after seeing us and talking, many patients tell me that we’ve helped. They come to me and say “Its worked, I do not think about dying anymore”. That makes me feel so good. These small victories keep me going and keep me motivated in my work.”