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Millions at risk of being left behind in Ukraine invasion


Violent attacks continue to intensify across Ukraine, forcing millions flee. Among the last to evacuate and most at-risk are people with disabilities and vulnerable populations.

A mother tends to her baby that is under medical treatment in the bomb shelter of the paediatric ward of Children's Hospital on February 28, 2022 in Kyiv, Ukraine. | © Chris McGrath / Getty Images via AFP

Vulnerable groups at higher risk

“We are deeply concerned for the most vulnerable persons,” says Fanny Mraz, HI emergency director. “Soon 2 million people will have fled Ukraine, but most of these are people with the means and ability to leave.

The most vulnerable populations, including older persons and people with disabilities, will face more difficulties evacuating - if they can leave at all- and accessing humanitarian aid.

They are left for longer periods with decreasing access to food and medicine, and remain exposed to the dangers of bombing and shelling around them.”

More than 2.7 million people in the Ukraine are registered as having disabilities, 164,000 of which are children. Over 2 million people in the country live with rare health conditions, many of which are dependent on specific medication to survive. Furthermore, a high percentage of the population is over the age of 60, many of whom live alone.

“It can take around 60 hours for individuals to leave Ukraine right now, often in the freezing cold and without shelter,” Fanny explains. This could be even longer for someone with mobility limitations, and particularly dangerous for individuals with fragile health conditions.”

According to a survey by HelpAge in eastern Ukraine, 99% of older people reported not wanting to be evacuated from their homes, 91% need help accessing food due to mobility limitations, and 75% need help accessing hygiene supplies.

Present in Ukraine, HI assesses needs

HI teams are now on-site and have been conducting an exploratory assessment mission throughout the Ukraine, Romania and Moldova since March 1st.  The mission’s objective is to assess the context and current needs to determine how HI can support the people of Ukraine, with particular attention on post-operative care for injured people, distribution of paramedical equipment and psychosocial support. Assessments will also cover needs for shelter, sanitation and hygiene, rehabilitation, daily essentials, armed violence reduction, logistics support and inclusion of the most vulnerable populations in accessing aid.

In the coming days, HI is reinforcing its team with new members, including technical specialists in rehabilitation, mental health and psychosocial support, basic needs and logistics in order to prepare emergency operations.

18 million people affected by conflict

As the devastating invasion of Ukraine continues to escalate in intensity, the number of people impacted increases every day. Nearly 18 million people are affected by the conflict, more than 12 million of which are in need of critical humanitarian aid.

With bombing and shelling dangerously threatening the lives of millions for over a week, with no end in sight, civilians continue to flee in mass. Over 1 million people have already been internally displaced, and over 1.7 million (mostly women and children) have fled to the surrounding countries of Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary. A total of 6.7 million people remain at risk of displacement as attacks target more and more cities across the country.

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