NewsEuropeThe elderly Ukrainians, silenced victims of a conflict from which they cannot flee

The elderly Ukrainians, silenced victims of a conflict from which they cannot flee

Archive – A soldier helps an elderly woman walk under shelling in Irpin (Ukraine). – Diego Herrera – Europa Press – Archive


The war in Ukraine has already left behind hundreds of deaths, thousands of displaced persons and millions affected by power supply cuts, but in addition to these victims there are others that are perhaps more silenced and that, according to various NGOs, are being one of the main Affected population sectors: the elderly.

The Russian invasion of Ukrainian territory has deepened the needs of the elderly in the country, a sector that accounts for almost a quarter of the Ukrainian population and has seen their ability to receive care reduced or even eliminated overnight health care, continue monitoring their illnesses or stock up on the medicines they need.

Thus, together with the commitment to which their health is subjected, is added the inability, in many cases physical, to be able to flee from conflict zones, which leads the older population to remain in houses in ruins, where their lives are in grave danger.

The alternatives to staying in their homes are not encouraging either, since there is the option of looking for rental housing for a more than high price, or having to stay in state institutions that are overwhelmed and without the necessary personnel to offer the care required by the people displaced there, especially the elderly.

In fact, Amnesty International has visited seven homes for the elderly with disabilities and has concluded that, indeed, these centers are not prepared to provide the care that older adults require.

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However, other independent Ukrainian organizations have stressed that these shortcomings already existed before the Russian invasion, although they have only increased since February, when the lack of personnel has exacerbated, above all.

Amnesty has collected the testimonies of some elderly residents in these centers, such as the case of Liudmila, a 79-year-old woman interned in a residence in the Kharkov region and who denounces being “abandoned”.

This version is confirmed by Olga Volkova, director of a center for elderly people with disabilities in Dnipro and who denounces that the conditions in these types of centers reach such a point that they have the elderly lying in their beds “until they die.”

Along with the lack of a safe home, older Ukrainians have to cope with a lack of medication and adequate healthcare to meet their needs. Doctors Without Borders (MSF) has confirmed that the majority of patients arriving at its mobile clinic in Kharkov are older women.

Most of these women — known as ‘babushkas’ — have disabilities such as limited mobility, loss of hearing or sight. In normal situations this could be linked to typical ailments of age, although some of these cases occur as a consequence of untreated chronic diseases.

MSF has verified that there are certain patients with high levels of blood pressure or diabetes who, in other contexts, would be hospitalized to receive specialized healthcare. “Here, it is simply not possible,” explained the head of the MSF medical team in Kharkiv, Gino Manciati.

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Along with hypertension, diabetes is another of those diseases that the context of the war is causing problems with mobility, sight or muscle function. The ongoing conflict prevents some from having access to medicine, while others are not even in a position to control their diet.

Manciati has revealed that, in addition to women with illnesses, MSF clinics are full of other elderly women who come to the centers in search of medicine for their male relatives, wounded on the battlefront.

“These elderly women come to us from far away, not only for themselves, but also for their husbands or children, who cannot reach our teams,” explained Dr. Manciati in a statement released by Doctors Without Borders.

But above all these diseases, perhaps there is one that stands out greatly, such as the psychological wounds left by the conflict in the older population. Human rights organizations are responsible for providing mental health care to those who need it.

Doctors Without Borders has also collected the testimony of some of the elderly women it cares for, and who have reported their state of stress. “I still can’t sleep (…) In the dark of night, missiles fly over buildings,” acknowledged Raisa, a 68-year-old woman for whom this situation is “destroying” her nervous system.

The main mission of the employees of Medecins Sans Frontières is to control the stress situation of their patients, helping them to normalize a normally high blood pressure, and facilitating certain mechanisms to know how to deal with episodes of anxiety or panic attacks.

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Under these conditions, Amnesty International has come to warn that the elderly Ukrainians are suffering the “disproportionate impact” of the war, and have warned that, with the imminent arrival of winter, especially harsh in Eastern Europe, “the community The international community must act urgently to strengthen support for this group of people.

“Now that the freezing winter months have arrived, older people must be evacuated to accessible shelters, and repairs to their homes must be a priority,” said Laura Mills, Amnesty International researcher who specializes in issues related to the elderly. and with disabilities.

Along the same lines, the UN Assistant Secretary General for Humanitarian Affairs and since March in charge of mediating to achieve a humanitarian ceasefire in Ukraine, Martin Griffiths, has warned that attacks on the Ukrainian energy network put the vulnerable people, such as the elderly.

The Russian Armed Forces have redoubled their offensive on Ukraine in recent weeks, setting the country’s energy infrastructure as one of their main targets. Ukrainian authorities have recently acknowledged that more than 50 percent of the facilities have been damaged by Russian attacks.

This leaves Ukraine in a more than compromised position where snow begins to accumulate in the cities and thousands of internally displaced persons, including the elderly, now add the weather conditions to the already complicated situation they have faced to date.


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