Vinnytsia — As a result of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine and the protracted hostilities, millions of people have lost their homes and livelihoods. Among them are many vulnerable groups, including the elderly and people with disabilities, who are unable to take care of themselves independently, requiring special support. 

According to data from the International Organization for Migration (IOM), almost 50 per cent of internally displaced people are over 60 years old. In Khmelnytsky region, geriatric centres such as "Turbota" care centre, Smotrytsky assisted living facility, Kytaihorod assisted living facility, a relocated hospice from Chasiv Yar and others have become a refuge for displaced elderly and displaced people with disabilities, who often have no one else to care for them. 

However, these institutions often lack the resources to create an appropriate inclusive environment. IOM has been responding to the needs of geriatric centres by providing humanitarian kits that include institutional and individual hygiene products. This provides the centres with the necessary resources to ensure cleanliness and sanitation, as well as care for people with mobility impairments.  

Displaced people who have settled in geriatric centres describe them not only as spaces for physical care, but also as places of mental support.  

"It was like we came from hell to paradise," recalls Mykola, describing the evacuation from his native Vuhledar under shelling, first to Pokrovsk and then to Khmelnytskyi.

Mykola, displaced from Vuhledar, transported his elderly mother to a geriatric centre in Khmelnytskyi. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

Mykola helped his 92-year-old mother, Kateryna Rodionivna, evacuate. While the full-scale invasion is Kateryna’s second war, it is her first time being so far from home.  

Kateryna Rodionivna smiles a lot and tries to be cheerful. Now, a small but bright room in "Turbota" social centre is her home. 

Kateryna Potapenko, displaced from Vuhledar, Donetsk region. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

According to Oleh Boichuk, the Head of the centre's department of the facility, continues to admit displaced people with disabilities and is in constant need of the essential items to care for them.  

To support the institution, IOM, with funding from the Government of Canada, provided hygiene kits to the centre, including institutional kits containing everything necessary for cleaning and maintaining sanitary conditions, individual hygiene kits, as well as kits for the care of people with reduced mobility. 

Kateryna's son Mykola receives care kits for people with reduced mobility and hygiene kits. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

IOM delivered similar kits to Smotrytskyi assisted living facility for people with disabilities and the elderly in Khmelnytskyi region. 

IOM team unloads hygiene items for the Smotrytskyi assisted living facility for the elderly and people with disabilities. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

"Each of these people has their own painful story, each needs attention, to be listened to, to be supported. It's hard, but you understand that your work is necessary and important," says Tetiana Sumina, head of the facility. 

Tamara Maksiuta, displaced from Kramatorsk, Donetsk region. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

"I am from Kramatorsk. In July 2022, a rocket hit 200 metres from my house. I was wounded, my leg was broken — the neck of my thigh. The only thing I remember after that was the ambulance," recalls Tamara, who is 83 years old. Now, she relies on a wheelchair and needs constant care.   

Here, Tamara met her friend, Hryhorii, who also now lives in Smotrytskyi care home. "My house is still standing, only the windows have been blown out, and the neighbours are taking care of it. I really want to return home," says Hryhorii Fedorovych. 

Hryhorii Bardak, displaced from Izyum district of Kharkiv region, lives in the Smotrytskyi assisted living facility in Khmelnytskyi region. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

The staff of the geriatric centres take into account the fact that many people will remain under their care indefinitely.    

"Many people had their homes destroyed and now have nowhere to go back to... The war has made our facility their home. And we are trying to do our best to keep it that way for them, creating the right conditions, trying to organize leisure activities for them," says Natalia Bazyuk, director of the Kitaygorod care home.   

After the full-scale invasion, the institution opened an additional branch in the village of Stara Ushytsia to meet the needs of more vulnerable displaced people. However, these communities are in particular need of livelihood support, as their remote location makes it difficult to deliver everything they need. The IOM team was able to deliver to them a humanitarian aid cargo with hygiene kits. 

During the onset of the full-scale war, IOM also assisted the facility with the installation of inclusive showers and bathrooms, designed specifically for people with disabilities.   

Among the 135 displaced people staying at the facility, 56 are people who are unable to take care of themselves and have limited mobility. According to the centre's director, they expect that more than 80% of the residents will stay there even after the war ends.  

Some centres from regions of Ukraine where active hostilities are taking place have been able to relocate, such as a private hospice that moved from Chasiv Yar in Donetsk region, together with its residents, staff and their families. According to the hospice's director, Hennadii Tkachev, the hospice lacks hygiene products, mattresses, bed linen and beds. IOM delivered the first of a series of humanitarian aid shipments with hygiene items for the hospice's residents at the end of October. 

Baba Ganna, as she calls herself, is one of the most active residents of the hospice. She even helps the staff: "I carry firewood, stack it, I have a vegetable garden here, I grew vegetables in the summer," says Anna Yakivna. Now she lives with five other women in a transformed room that three years ago was an ordinary school classroom.

Ganna Pleshivtseva and carer Svitlana, displaced from Chasiv Yar, in the courtyard of the hospice. Photo: IOM/Maryna Orekhova

Her whole life is in the photo album she took with her when evacuating. Flipping through the pages, she recalls her past: "Everything was there. I had my own house, I was a farmer. I had 50 hectares of land near Popasna, 50 goats, cows, my own farm. Everything was destroyed, nothing is left," she says. She moved to the hospice in Chasiv Yar in 2018, and in 2022, she moved to Khmelnytskyi region with everyone else. 

Ganna says she is unlikely to return home. Her village near Popasna in Donetsk region has been almost completely destroyed.  

IOM, with the support of the Embassy of Canada, Ukraine Humanitarian Fund and USAID BHA, provides not only hygiene items and care-giving kits to the facilities and their residents, but also beds, mattresses, linen and boilers. This year, IOM in the central and western regions of Ukraine has provided over 1,000 hygiene kits, over 3,500 packs of diapers, as well as 58 boilers, 26 washing machines, 20 dryers to geriatric institutions that continue to admit people from the areas of active hostilities, in order to improve the living conditions of displaced elderly people and people with disabilities. 

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