Situation of Disabled People in the Ukraine War

Disability inclusion resources from around the world

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From Ukraine:

Families Find a Way: report on families and children in the midst of war. (2023, Disability Rights International)

Impossible Choices A photoessay: “Life was a struggle for families of Ukrainians with disabilities before the war. It’s even harder now” (2023, CNN)

Perils of War for Children in Institutions.

“The Ukraine war has had traumatic and devastating consequences for children in residential institutions, including forcible transfers to Russia and separation from their families. The impact on institutionalized children points out the urgency of the need to remove them from institutions and provide support for family and community care.” (2023, Human Rights Watch)

“I used to have a home”: Older people’s experience of war, displacement, and access to housing, sometimes driving them into institutions.

“After older people were displaced from their homes, many struggled to find suitable accommodation. Pushed out of the private market by poverty, many older people turned to temporary shelters in schools, administrative buildings, train stations, former medical facilities, and sanitoriums. However, shelters were largely physically inaccessible to older people with disabilities and did not have staff with the capacity or skills to support people with disabilities. Sometimes, shelters said they could only take an older person with a disability if they were with somebody who could support them. Capacity at shelters that did have support services was extremely limited.” (2022, Amnesty)

Left Behind in the War: “Ukraine’s children with disabilities with the greatest support needs are living in atrocious conditions – entirely overlooked by major international relief agencies and receiving little support from abroad.” (2022, DRI) See also a short video with footage from the visit, or a short BBC report. Both have distressing images.

One month of the Russian war on Ukraine in the words of families of people with intellectual disabilities. Photos and testimonies from around the country in this vital collection. (2022, Inclusion Europe)

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Russia

Russian Soldiers Dream Of Being Injured In Ukraine, 'Getting Rich' From Disability Pay (2022, International Business Times) I am sceptical of this dubiously sourced news. The publicly announced figures are in the region of €40,000 for families of soldiers who die, and almost €25,000 for those wounded. I question whether all those injured actually get that.

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Ukraine

'Abandon all hope:' Ukraine’s wounded warriors compare military medical system to the Inferno. One

“The Ukrainian military medical bureaucracy seemed determined to add insult to injury, making [Sluchynskyi] fight for adequate treatments, his combat pay, and his freedom every step of the way.”

“‘Sometimes people say war is hell,’ Sluchynskyi told the Kyiv Independent. ‘The hell is when you return from the war (to face) the indifference. It is very demotivating.’” (Mar, Kyiv Independent)

Accessible house is a top priority: how soldier Oleksandr Popyk returns to normal life after being wounded.

“A “walking” person would not be able to give such objective advice as a person in a wheelchair with his own experience”. (Mar, League of the Strong)

For disabled boy in Ukraine's war-ravaged east, volunteers are a lifeline. (Feb, Reuters)

They live in the dark a report on the situation of older people and people with disabilities:

“Russia’s invasion has fuelled a crisis in Ukraine’s already overburdened care system. In many communities, younger relatives who previously supported older people with disabilities have fled or enlisted in the military, while older people have stayed behind. Despite the individual heroism of social and healthcare workers, who have continued providing support to older people and people with disabilities in the face of great personal risks and often with minimal pay, there are simply not enough workers – nor enough transportation – to serve this growing need. Because most temporary shelters are physically inaccessible to older people with disabilities, and private accommodation is unaffordable to them due to extremely low pensions and rising rents, older people in Ukraine are often placed in segregated institutional settings, where they are isolated from their communities and loved ones.” (2023, Amnesty)

The impact of the war in Ukraine on the rights of persons with disabilities a monitoring report from “League of Strong”, together with the KRF “Public Alternative”. (2023, EDF)

Ukraine’s Recruiters Use Harsh Tactics to Fill Ranks “Recruiters have confiscated passports, taken people from their jobs and, in at least one case, tried to send a mentally disabled person to military training” (2023, NYT)

Life for Disabled Ukrainians Amid Russian War “From victimhood to activism for a more inclusive Ukraine – a severely injured veteran tells of his struggle to overcome his disability no more so than in other peoples’ minds.” (2023, Kyiv Post)

Ukraine’s Children With Special Needs Suffer the ‘Huge Pressure’ of War “Children with conditions like ADHD and autism have been particularly affected by the traumas and uncertainties of the war and the disruptions to daily life, families and experts say.” (2023, New York Times)

‘I had my chance to die – but I made my choice’: meet the young Ukrainian soldier fighting for amputee visibility. (2023, the Guardian)

Most Ukrainian Defenders with a disability “come back home to find that their cities are completely not adapted for their basic needs. Let’s see what it takes me, and Vlad (An Azovstal veteran with a prosthetic leg) to get to a memorial for his friends and pay our respects.” (Short video on Twitter, 2023)

Ukrainian soldiers who were blinded in combat face the new battle of navigating the world again. (2023, AP)

Ukraine investigates corruption in medical exemptions from military duty “Ukraine’s President Zelenskyy says bribes of between $3,000 and $15,000 paid for medical exemptions from military duty.” (2023, Aljazeera)

The Rights of Persons with Disabilities who are Institutionalised in Wartime Research findings. (2023, Kharkiv Institute for Social Research) See also a blog from EDF.

Families Find a Way: report on families and children in the midst of war. (2023, Disability Rights International)

Amputation is like graduating from school an interview with a veteran who lost two limbs. (2023, NAIU)

Impossible Choices A photoessay: “Life was a struggle for families of Ukrainians with disabilities before the war. It’s even harder now” (2023, CNN)

Perils of War for Children in Institutions.

“The Ukraine war has had traumatic and devastating consequences for children in residential institutions, including forcible transfers to Russia and separation from their families. The impact on institutionalized children points out the urgency of the need to remove them from institutions and provide support for family and community care.” (2023, Human Rights Watch)

‘They’re dying in large numbers’: Disabled Ukrainians face abuse, neglect in institutions. (2023, EuroNews)

Harder than ever: How power outages affect people with disabilities in Ukraine. (2023, Kyiv Independent)

“I used to have a home”: Older people’s experience of war, displacement, and access to housing, sometimes driving them into institutions.

“After older people were displaced from their homes, many struggled to find suitable accommodation. Pushed out of the private market by poverty, many older people turned to temporary shelters in schools, administrative buildings, train stations, former medical facilities, and sanitoriums. However, shelters were largely physically inaccessible to older people with disabilities and did not have staff with the capacity or skills to support people with disabilities. Sometimes, shelters said they could only take an older person with a disability if they were with somebody who could support them. Capacity at shelters that did have support services was extremely limited.” (2022, Amnesty)

What the war means for Ukrainians with disabilities “Rights activists and carers are filling the gap as the war creates huge challenges in accessing disability support.” (2022, Aljazeera)

Photo-essay on how War Amputees Find Camaraderia in Recovery. (2022, New York Times)

Ukraine: UN committee ‘gravely concerned’ over treatment of people with disabilities. “Some people with disabilities in Ukraine remain trapped in life-threatening situations and must be evacuated to ensure they can access basic needs like food and heating as winter approaches,” (2022, UN)

For a Deaf Family in Ukraine, the Bombs Came Without Warning (2022, New York Times)

'Left behind': How war is hitting the disabled in Ukraine. (2022, Euronews.)

Children with disabilities disproportionately impacted by war in Ukraine. One concern raised is that “Ukraine seems to require third countries receiving children with disabilities to place them in facilities – even States that have successfully moved away from institutionalization for their own citizens.” (2022, UN)

People with disabilities left behind during the war in Ukraine (2022, Devex)

As Russia’s invasion continues, Ukraine’s elderly and disabled struggle to survive “After a recent visit to hard-hit northeastern Ukraine, unarmed civilian protectors are exposing the lack of humanitarian engagement with the country’s most vulnerable populations.” (2022, Waging Nonviolence)

Ukraine orphanages: Children tied up and men in cots: “A BBC News investigation exposes the abuse and neglect of disabled people locked away in institutions across Ukraine.” BBC iPlayer has a feature Locked Away. (2022, BBC)

Ukrainian care center for disabled deals with the trauma of occupation. A story of being under attack, evacuating, and the subsequent return. (2022, Washington Post)

War in Ukraine takes heavy toll on those with disabilities, and many can't leave (2022, ABC News)

Complex injuries from explosive weapons in Ukraine (2022, Humanity and Inclusion)

Left Behind in the War: “Ukraine’s children with disabilities with the greatest support needs are living in atrocious conditions – entirely overlooked by major international relief agencies and receiving little support from abroad.” (2022, DRI) See also a short video with footage from the visit, or a short BBC report. Both have distressing images.

Alone under siege: how older women are being left behind in Ukraine. “I wonder why some young people evacuate their cats and hamsters, but leave their parents behind,” says Roman Vodyanyk, head doctor at Severodonetsk hospital in Luhansk (2022, the Guardian)

Older People No Longer Invisible Casualties of War in Ukraine (2022, Human Rights Watch)

An unfolding horror story: Ukraine's disabled population has been left behind (2022, iNews)

‘I feel so lost’: The elderly in Ukraine, left behind, mourn (2022, AP News)

‘We have to go’: nursing home residents await evacuation in Donbas (2022, the Guardian)

Interview with Child With Future on the situation of children with autism (2022, EDF)

Stories from the ground in Ukraine collected testimonies from persons with disabilities.

"I move with the aid of a stroller. My mother lives with me, 78 years old and has suffered a stroke. We stayed at home. We run to our 'shelter' to the toilet, taped door and towels, with a bath of water in case it turns off, with pillows on the floor. I never thought bread and drinking water, chocolate, I will store in the washing machine. Near the washing machine there is a backpack with medicines, clothes. My mom and I went to our shelter nine times today. When there is no bombing, I call persons with disabilities, I ask whether all is well, what help is needed.' - person in Zhytomyr on 4th March (2022, EDF)

One month of the Russian war on Ukraine in the words of families of people with intellectual disabilities. Photos and testimonies from around the country in this vital collection. (2022, Inclusion Europe)

Public Health Catastrophe Looms in Ukraine “Even before the war, the country struggled with epidemics of H.I.V., tuberculosis and hepatitis. The conflict threatens to undo decades of progress.” (2022, NYT) See also in the Independent.

People with disabilities cannot escape the terrors of war (2022, Huckmag)

The War in Ukraine Is a Reproductive Health Crisis for Millions "Russia's invasion is making it harder to deliver babies and provide birth control, abortion services, and other essential care." (2022, Wired)

For an overall view, see this UNDP warning that 30% of the population are likely to require life-saving humanitarian assistance and 90% of the population could be facing poverty and vulnerability to poverty. Does not mention persons with disabilities. (2022)

Press Conference on experiences of persons with disabilities Act Now to Support Ukrainians with Disabilities and their Families. As well as giving context, gave testimonies of people in Ukraine:

“I am in Kyiv in the capital together with my adult daughter who is autistic and has behavioral disorders. Currently we cannot possibly leave the city of Kyiv. I also have my mother who is 82 years old. She cannot move. We cannot go downstairs to the bomb shelter. Please believe me and we are not alone in this situation. There are many of us in this situation, all over the city of Kyiv, all over Ukraine.” -- Yuliaa Klepets

“one of our NGO leaders has a son with autism and cannot leave him for more than one hour. Which means that she cannot queue for the pharmacy, for the supermarket, for the bank machine and therefore cannot get the drugs, the food, the money she needs. She needs help for even these basic amenities. We also know that those with severe disabilities, and those whose parents are older, they do not leave Ukraine. The trip is so difficult and so long.” -- Raisa Kravchenko (2022, EASPD)

A plea from disabled Ukrainians: ‘We have no chance without help’ (2022, Washington Post)

Millions with disabilities ‘abandoned’ in Ukraine, charities fear “We have had disabled people who have called medical humanitarian-oriented agencies, have called their crisis hotline and said, ‘Hi, I’m a wheelchair user, with pressure sores. I need help’, and have been told: ‘Oh, we don’t help people with disabilities, you should call the Department of Social Protection’. If they manage to reach the borders, the refugee centres and buses are 'not wheelchair accessible'". (2022, Independent)

Under Shelling in Kharkiv People with Disabilities Need to Evacuate Safely. (2022, Human Rights Watch)

Professor fears for elderly immobile mother in Mariupol. "Her feeling is, it will just take too much time and effort to evacuate her out of her home and out of the war zone, and her plans are basically to stay put for as long as she can because she feels that really the world belongs to the future, to the women and children and the younger generations." (2022, BBC)

First Days of War: A Report from Bucha, Kyiv Oblast

"Everyone is either running — out of buildings, into buildings — or is standing still in shock. And on the top floor of our five-story apartment building, one man stands alone on his balcony, leaning on the railing, apathetically smoking and watching the fire." (does not mention disability, 2022, LA Review of Books)

Updates on People with intellectual disabilities and families in Ukraine affected by Russian war. (2022, Inclusion Europe) Includes the testimony of a mother with a 9-year-old son with autism:

"With the start of the war, we moved to another area, a city close to the border, but it did not last long, only 5 days.

My son was always nervous, resolving to dissatisfied kicking. The neighbours often complained about the noise. Any walk was accompanied by screaming, crying, the child’s lips trembled and his face lost colour.

When we left the apartment, we had to take out all our belongings, he ran and packed his bags, anxiously inspected whether we had forgotten anything. Eventually we returned home, I felt calmer and so did my son.

But the sirens and the basement became the next problem. Dragging him there was not easy, he did not understand why we were there and what was happening.

Then we decided to live improve it a bit in our basement, brought some things, goodies. Everything seemed to be fine, because the time in the basement lasted up to an hour. But later we had to stay there until 6 o’clock, we can’t get used to it.

We also have a curfew and at 20.00 the light should go out. This has become another problem for the child he can not understand. Because when you turn off the light, you need to sleep, and his biological clock says it’s not time. We are faced with self-aggression, he began to bite his hands and cry, lying on the ground. There was no way of a hug, the child did not want it categorically.

There was little light from the TV and nightlights and then we lit candles. For now, it’s calm.

I believe that everything will end soon, but my son has autism, and some things will become a habit for him. For example, we had dinner in the basement several times, and now he takes his dinner and demands to go downstairs, even if the sirens are not on." (16 March)

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