Ukraine must not be forgotten
At the end of January, Arnaud Pont, who oversees Handicap International's projects in Ukraine, attended The Human Face of the Eastern Conflict conference in Brussels , which aims to address the humanitarian needs resulting from the conflict. Arnaud gives an update on this forgotten crisis.
Arnaud Pont, Head of Handicap International's programmes in Ukraine | © D.Vanderheyde/Handicap International
What's the current situation in Ukraine?
"The conflict began in February 2014, and is still ongoing along the "contact line,” which separates Ukraine from the area controlled by the Donetsk People's Republic. Approximately 800,000 people are still living in this area, either because they do not have the means to leave or because they have a disability. Some people have also refused to leave the place they call home. These people require humanitarian assistance, as all state services, including health services, have been disrupted. There are also 300,000 people in the area under government control. In total, 3.8 million people in Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance. The situation is critical."
Handicap International's response
"Handicap International supports people with disabilities and older people who are unable to leave their homes or sometimes even their own beds. We have been focusing on their physical and functional rehabilitation needs, supplying mobility devices and training health care professionals. In 2016, we provided assistance to approximately 1,000 people and supported 30 organisations providing health care. Because many of these people are experiencing psychological trauma due to their isolation, experiences and the stress induced by the sound of shots and explosions right outside their homes, we’re also providing psychosocial support.
"The Ukranian economy has suffered greatly from the crisis. Even in developed countries, the population can require humanitarian assistance in the event of a war or natural disaster. Conflict has a lasting impact and an example of this is that, unlike today, there were no landmines in Ukraine before fighting broke out."
What do you think will happen when the conflict ends?
"Handicap International will remain in the country as long as needed, but this requires resources. This is why we took part in The Human Face of the Eastern Conflict conference, along with other NGOs, representatives of the European Commission, and the United Nations. The Ukranian conflict is a forgotten crisis and therefore under-funded. We need funding bodies to understand that the rehabilitation, mine action, and psychological support needs are still immense, and will be for years to come."
How do you see the situation developing over the next few years?
"It's hard to say, as the solution needs to be political not humanitarian. We are asking for access to everybody who needs our help, specifically people with disabilities, and the ability to provide the humanitarian assistance needed."