Odesa - The Russian invasion of Ukraine has had a profound impact on Ukrainian towns and villages, particularly in Eastern and Southern parts of the country. These areas have been targeted since the early stages of the full-scale invasion, resulting in a severe lack of access to essential services, like water and electricity disruptions, among others. Another pressing issue facing these communities is the lack of medical care, as many doctors have left for safety reasons. And in cases where access to medical facilities used to depend on being able to easily get to nearby villages, it has now become challenging due to constant threats of potential rocket attacks. As a result, the people in Southern and Eastern Ukraine continue to endure the consequences of a protracted conflict with limited access to the necessary services required to maintain their well-being.
One such area is Khrystoforivka village in Mykolaiv region, a community that has been deeply affected by the war since the very first days of the invasion. The deputy head of the village council Nataliia Buhai, who has witnessed the struggles of her community firsthand, shares: “At the start of the invasion, the water tower and power transformer were damaged leaving us without electricity for a while. The school building got hit twice, first by a tank and then by a missile. One of the families lost all their livestock when their barn was hit. The village head's house gates were wrecked by a Russian armored vehicle. In total, 57 out of 326 houses got damaged.”
Ravaged by the war, this community has witnessed both the physical destruction, including the only school and a community centre, as well as psychological turmoil of the residents due shelling and the presence of Russian soldiers in the beginning of the invasion, in March of 2022.
Iryna, who works at the local community centre — now deserted as public gatherings are a safety risk during the constant threat of attacks — spoke about her family's experience when the Russian soldiers entered the village: "My husband, our three children and I were hiding in the basement as the Russian soldiers entered the village. It was a terrifying experience.”
The pervasive presence of war and its associated stressors takes a heavy toll on a person's health. The continuous exposure to violence and uncertainty can lead to heightened levels of stress and anxiety, which in turn contribute to a range of health issues or exacerbate the existing ones; access to healthcare services in these areas becomes an even more pressing issue.
While the population of the village decreased significantly, with many leaving to seek refuge, those who remain are currently lacking any adequate access to healthcare. There no proper medical facilities in the village, with the nearest hospital being an hour's drive away.
In case of serious emergencies, calling for an ambulance from a nearby town can be equally time-consuming, often taking 30 to 40 minutes, a precious time delay in emergencies. The situation becomes even more dire during the colder months when the road conditions deteriorate.
“The road here is very bad. It takes 40 minutes for the ambulance to arrive, sometimes even longer. A woman once told me when an ambulance car was transporting her mom, she had to lie on top of her because the ride was so shaky due to the bumpy road,” shares Nataliia.
"We see a few dozen patients each time we come, sometimes even up to 50 a day. Many are repeated patients who rely on us to continue their treatment,” shares Iryna Semenenko, a member of Medical Teams International.
The mobile medical brigades who come a long way to visit their patients in hard-to-reach areas are able to conduct blood tests, diagnose medical conditions and prescribe necessary medicine. For the residents of Khrystoforivka, this assistance is nothing short of a lifeline.
The story of Khrystoforivka is just one example of the countless communities across Mykolaiv region and Ukraine that have been affected by the ongoing war and lack basic services like access to adequate healthcare. With the support of the German Government, IOM and partners like Medical Teams International provide the much-needed medical assistance to those who often have no other access to healthcare.
Written by Anna Tsybko and Stanislav Kalach.