Kyiv, December 15, 2015. Fighting in eastern Ukraine have radically changed the lives of all inhabitants of the contact areas and temporarily occupied districts of Luhansk and Donetsk region. Elderly people and people with special needs are the most vulnerable, even in peacetime they need help. Over six years of its activity, charity foundation «Res.Publica» turned from a volunteer initiative into an international charity foundation with a clear and coordinated scheme of work. The Fund provides targeted assistance with medicines and medical equipment to residents with special needs in Stanychno-Luhansk district, in Maryinka, Avdiyivka Krasnohorivka and partly in Granitne. “By October, the volume of our assistance in Luhansk region totaled 108,000 hryvnias,” said Oksana Ponomaryova, Director of Ukrainian charity foundation “Res.publica” via Skype at Ukraine Crisis Media Center.
At first, activists helped immigrants from the east that moved to Kyiv and Kyiv region. Later, they started helping people from contact line areas. Because of shelling, pharmacies are open only a few hours a day and people with special needs can hardly get there on their own. Another factor that significantly worsens the situation is constant stress – caused by incessant shelling, destruction and uncertainty about the future. “All gray area residents suffer from cardiovascular diseases – strokes, heart attacks,” said Ponomaryova. “In Stanytsia Luhanska, Voloske, Makarove, Olkhova, Maryinka, Krasnohorivka, Avdiyivka and Granitne, children cuffs for measuring pressure have become an ordinary thing.” Patients with diabetes, asthma and cancer are in a particularly difficult situation due to lack of necessary medicines, irregular work of transport and healthcare services. “There is only tramadol (opioid pain medication used to treat moderate to moderately severe pain – UCMC note) – if prescribed, and if available. Or not prescribed because there are no doctors. Then people are alone with their pain,” said Ms. Ponomaryova. In addition to health problems, many people have seriously damaged housing and heating, and they have to worry about charcoal and firewood. For people with special needs and lonely old people it is a real challenge.
“We gained access to the people from Luhansk regional military-civilian administration engaged in social policy, received contact numbers of social services of Stanychno-Luhansk district, and established contacts with first-aid centers and territorial centers of social protection, pharmacies and pharmaceutical services,” said Oksana Ponomaryova. Through cooperation with local authorities volunteers managed to get lists of what people need first. Most aid was passed from hand to hand. They brought upon request exactly those drugs or medical devices which people asked about. Provision of individual first-aid kits prepared to match the needs of certain people who asked for such help appeared to be a good practice. Then we also added “doctor’s kits” with more serious drugs to such aid.
When military operations were very active, the fund received strong support from individuals, especially from the Ukrainian diaspora of Israel, Austria, Germany, Poland and Italy. Later, activists familiarized themselves with the method of charitable work through an exchange program with German specialists, developed the project and received a grant from the Danish Refugee Council that was intended for the inhabitants of Donetsk region as well. “Meanwhile,” Oksana continues, “after the official registration, new problems appeared due to the fact that the State Fiscal Service obliged the foundation to draw up clear reports on providing and receiving assistance “It became impossible to send parcels to the occupied territories, because we cannot get feedback,” explains Ms. Ponomaryova. There is yet another problem in the government-controlled territories. “Certain people warn the locals that if they give their identification numbers or passport numbers, somebody will use them for taking loans from banks,” explained the Director of «Res.Publica», adding that for these reasons the elderly prefer to reject kits rather than provide information about themselves.
«Res.Publica». The Foundation has plans to receive another grant from international donors, which, among other things, provides for opening physiotherapeutic rooms in the front-line villages. “These rooms will provide people with the opportunity to share their concerns and to receive psychoemotional relief,” stated Oksana Ponomaryova.