Medyka, Poland. Alla (in the wheelchair) and her family arrive at Medyka after crossing the border from Ukraine to Poland. | © Tom Nicholson / HI
Jeremie, coordinator of HI programmes, describes the humanitarian emergency in western Ukraine.
HI has a team in Chernivsti, in the southwest of Ukraine, a few kilometres from the border with Romania. The city has not yet been directly affected by the conflict, although sirens are sounding regularly during the day. Until this week, only one alert had been heard since the beginning of the conflict. This changed Monday, when air raid sirens sounded six times, then a dozen times on Tuesday. This forces us to take shelter underground. Locals are working to protect the public infrastructure and the city’s historic monuments. It is a strange atmosphere...
Many Ukrainians come to Chernivsti to escape the violence. For the moment, most of them are welcomed by relatives; many continue their journey to nearby Romania or Moldova.
In Chernivsti, we are helping people with disabilities who are often forgotten in crisis situations, and can have a hard time reaching safety. For example, how do you flee fighting when you are in a wheelchair? When you are deaf or hard of hearing, how are you alerted to an air raid siren? For people with learning disabilities, is information on humanitarian aid or evacuation adapted to your needs?
In Ukraine, people with disabilities live mostly in institutions. You don't see them included in public life, so it is not always easy to identify them and to get in touch with them. We are supporting a centre for people with disabilities in Chernivsti (see previous web info), as the centre has doubled its capacity. The centre welcomes many disabled or older people coming from centres affected by the fighting. HI provides residents with mobility aids like crutches and wheelchairs. So that their stay is dignified, we also provide the centre with hygiene items, such as incontinence diapers or bedpans.