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New HI publication on Ukraine, focus on persons with disabilities and provision of emergency health services


Advocacy | Armed violence reduction | Emergency | Health | Protection | Rehabilitation | International | Ukraine | PUBLISHED ON October 7th 2022
Elderly couple in Zhytomyr to the west of Kyiv. A Russian rocket demolished civilian building close to a military campound. Nearby is also a hospital. Photo made at 14th of March 2022.

Elderly couple in Zhytomyr to the west of Kyiv. A Russian rocket demolished civilian building close to a military campound. Nearby is also a hospital. Photo made at 14th of March 2022.

Today, HI releases a new factsheet “Ukraine, where sirens sound day and night: A focus on persons with disabilities and provision of emergency health services”, based on observations from HI’s field teams and data reviews.

It reveals that the conflict has created massive humanitarian needs and persons with disabilities face increased challenges to access equal and dignified humanitarian assistance. According to the International Organisation for Migration (IOM), 25% of internal displaced families in Ukraine include at least one family member with a disability.

This factsheet aims at highlighting the huge needs that the civilian population is facing in this armed conflict context, with a specific focus on persons with disabilities, as well as the provision of emergency rehabilitation and mental health & psychosocial support services for the Ukrainian population.

Read the document in PDF.

The devastating impact of the use of explosive weapons in populated areas

Based on HI’s previous experience in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, etc., we know that the number of people with injuries will continue to increase due to injuries caused by explosive and armed violence in Ukraine. Bombing and shelling are massive and systematic. Explosive violence causes complex injuries that can lead to amputation or permanent disability requiring long-term rehabilitation care. It is crucial to develop services adapted to respond to the needs of persons injured and persons with disabilities.

Since the start of the conflict, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded:

  • 13,917 civilian casualties in Ukraine,
  • 5,718 persons killed,
  • 8,199 persons injured.

Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in populated areas(EWIPA), including shelling from heavy artillery, multiple launch rocket systems, missiles and air strikes.

An urgent need of humanitarian assistance and health assistance

The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) estimates that 17.7 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine. A staggering 14.5 million are in need of health services, and 14.6 million of comprehensive humanitarian mine action services, which include victim assistance, explosive ordnance risk education and land release.[i]

Access to essential services is complicated in such context. Humanitarian workers are struggling to reach areas affected by ongoing hostilities and non-government-controlled areas. Contamination by explosive ordnance, damages to infrastructures, including railways,[ii] and disruption to telecommunication are also having an impact on humanitarian access

Humanitarian organisations face serious challenges in locating people with disabilities and injuries and assessing their needs. This is mainly due to lack of access to certain areas and lack of information and data on people with disabilities.  It is everyone’s duty to ensure that people with disabilities have the same access to humanitarian as everybody else.” Explains HI Emergency Director Fanny Mraz

Reportedly, persons with disabilities are not being accounted for, having huge difficulties to flee or to be evacuated, and to receive the humanitarian aid they need. Many persons with disabilities do not have access to the humanitarian aid they need.


The factsheet states that due to lack of evacuation support, persons with disabilities who are unable to move are being left behind. Indeed, many persons with disabilities have no access to information on how to evacuate and face barriers in an inaccessible environment:

  • During the first months of the conflict, there were reports of people in wheelchairs being unable to board buses to evacuate cities under attack.
  • Most of the bomb shelters are not accessible to people who use wheelchairs or have restricted mobility.

Consequently, persons with disabilities are left behind and exposed to explosive weapon attacks. Humanitarian actors need to always ensure inclusive practices and meaningful participation of persons with disabilities and their representative organizations throughout the project cycle


The Geneva Conventions (1949) and their Additional Protocols (1977) explicitly state that all civilians must be protected, and recognize that protection is due to persons with disabilities during armed conflict.

HI calls on States and humanitarian actors to:

  • Firmly advocate for an immediate cessation of hostilities, which is the only way to ensure civilians’ protection. Parties to the conflict should take all feasible measures to protect civilians and civilian infrastructures.
  • Call on parties to the conflict to allow for safe, unimpeded access to humanitarian actors in all areas, and humanitarian operations to be immediate and sustained. Humanitarian action must be protected and respected, in line with IHL and the humanitarian principles.
  • Pay particular attention to those who are most at risk from threats to their safety and rights violations, including women, children, older people, and persons with disabilities in all their diversity. Ensure a meaningfully inclusive humanitarian response.
  • Support the Ukrainian healthcare system in providing early rehabilitation and mental health and psychosocial support to all those in need, including persons with disabilities.

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