29.04.2015. Analysis, Social institutions in conflict zone: Who will take responsibility for saving people?, KHiSR

Since the outbreak of war in Eastern Ukraine, a complete failure of evacuation from the social institutions, located in the conflict zone, happened and no one was brought to justice – says in the new analysis of the Kharkiv Institute for Social Research (KHiSR).

Prior to the conflict, institutions of the Ministry of Social Policy (homes for the elderly and disabled, nursing homes, inpatient wards and territorial centers of social services, retirement homes for war veterans, neuropsychiatric boarding schools, orphanages for children, centers for social and psychological rehabilitation of children) housed more than 10,000 customers. These are not just people who could get up and go when the town was under fire. These are people and children with disabilities, the elderly.

Why the Ukrainian government did not help its citizens?

The first reason – government’s decision to stop paying social benefits in areas outside the control of the central government (decision of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine № 595 from 11.07.2014). At that moment, there were good reasons for this decision, but the situation has since changed considerably.

The second reason – the inability to establish communication with the authorities of LNR and DNR and Russian representatives engaged in humanitarian questions in the areas not controlled by Ukrainian government. Information about the situation in these institutions comes exclusively from volunteer groups involved in humanitarian aid and international organizations. Their reports and statements show how critical is the situation – much of the staff gone, almost no medicine, no food reserve, some institutions experience shortages of water and electricity.

The third reason – the moment when the social institutions could and should have been evacuated from the combat zone, is hopelessly lost. This should have been done in the summer, immediately after the termination of funding, when conflict was not so strong, front line were more transparent, and the enemy was not as organized and willing to cooperate. Recent developments at block-posts indicate that organized evacuation is not impossible today.

Another aspect of this problem is that almost all evacuations, which were still made, took place within the region. Thus, according to the Ministry of Social Policy of Donetsk and Lugansk regions on March 26, 2015 1751 people were evacuated from social institutions and 1425 of them were placed within the same regions. This means that 80% of people evacuated remained in the area close to the fighting at a distance of artillery strike. Special Programme  for further evacuation does not exist, and although across the country there is a large number of places in orphanages and nursing homes, people are living in overcrowded institutions in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

Looking at the dreadful situation, a question to the minister and other high-level officials arises – why there is not a single body which would be dealing with social institutions in a combat zone?

On both sides of the front line in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions there are tens of thousands of people in need of emergency care that are unable to help themselves independently. One can solve this problem only with systemic measures when the state, volunteer groups and international organizations work together. Such cooperation will allow to conduct a regular assessment of the situation, risks and needs; develop strategy and plan of evacuation assistance; create plans for various possible scenarios and to seek funding to support such a large number of people. Only then ministers can afford to radiate confidence in television broadcasts.

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