Stories From the Field: the Pandemic in Ukraine

A recent item from the Global Sisters Report featured some important details about how Ukraine is dealing with the pandemic, confronting some of the same issues as hard-hit conflict zones such as Sudan:

Ukraine is facing similar challenges, said Anna Dombrovska, projects officer for the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which supports the humanitarian work of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church, an Eastern Catholic denomination in communion with the worldwide Catholic Church.

Available data as of 15 June show that the eastern European country, with a population of 42 million, has had 31,810 COVID cases, with 901 deaths and 14,253 people recovering from the disease, said Dombrovska.

But the data has gaps — it does not include the conflict areas of eastern Ukraine currently occupied by Russia. And an alarming statistic shows that the country’s health care system has failed to protect its health care workers. Twenty percent of 5,537 doctors and nurses have been infected by COVID-19 and 40 have died, Dombrovska told GSR.

The response to COVID, she said, has been hampered by an insufficient supply of personal protective equipment and ventilators. Adding to the problem is inadequate testing capacity — the result of a country faced with a faltering economy and “burdened by the six-year war with Russia,” Dombrovska said, as well as long-standing corruption and the continued legacy of totalitarian rule.

For many Ukrainians, the pandemic and the resulting lockdown proved to be a huge adversity.

“It was the end of the world for many of them,” Dombrovska said in an interview, given already high rates of poverty. This was particularly the case in the east, which borders the occupied areas — places with high numbers of displaced persons from the Russian occupation and already marked by hardship and struggle.

Though the lockdown, which began 12 March, is being eased in less-affected parts of the country, many quarantine measures — such as wearing masks in public places, working from home, banning of mass events — “are still in place,” she said.

Read more about what the coronavirus is doing to people in places like Ukraine — and how it very often is making difficult situations worse.

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