The challenges and our response
Conflict between armed groups and government forces in eastern Ukraine is rarely in the headlines, but it has affected some 4.4 million people since fighting began in 2014. UNOCHA reports some 3.8 million continue to endure the protracted violence and are in need of humanitarian assistance.
Clashes along the “line of contact” in Eastern Ukraine have had far-reaching humanitarian consequences to residents, including loss of life, livelihoods, displacement, and disrupted access to basic needs. Residents in conflict-affected areas have experienced electricity and water cuts as well as and central heating outages. Insecurity, cold winters and a difficult economic situation further compound people’s suffering. In May 2017, OHCHR recorded 76 civilian casualties including eight deaths and 68 injuries in the conflict affected areas.
International Medical Corps Ukraine undertakes measures to increase access to quality child protection, gender-based violence prevention and response, and psychosocial support (PSS) services among conflict-affected communities directly through Mobile Protection Teams and in partnership with local organisations. International Medical Corps has also made its contribution to assist vulnerable people to survive by providing shelter and programs that offer much-needed non-food items, such as heaters, blankets and coal along with cash grants to purchase items like clothing or residential insulation.
Mental Health and Psychosocial Support: International Medical Corps is working both directly and with local partner organisations to provide appropriate mental health and psychosocial support programming to those in great need. We are implementing psychosocial support directly using mobile teams to reach villages along the Line of Contact and through partners in government and non-government-controlled areas. Support groups for adults and older people were established by psychologists, case workers and community-based facilitators to reduce social isolation and increase contact within the community through psycho-education and recreational activities. Psycho-educational topics are needs based and addressed through participatory activities aimed at improving wellbeing. In 2016 alone our teams helped thousands of people, with many more set to receive lifesaving support in the coming months. We work to strengthen the availability of mental health and psychosocial support in Ukraine in line with international principles such as the Inter-Agency Standing Committee guidelines on MHPSS in emergency settings. We are providing a Training of Trainers course according to IASC Guidelines for MHPSS focal points in Ukraine and continue to lead MHPSS coordination. Facilitating MHPSS coordination includes mapping of services, helping organise coordination meetings and strengthening referral pathways. International Medical Corps adheres to IASC Guidelines on Mental Health and Psychosocial Support (MHPSS) on the Inter-Agency Standing Committee’s official website.
Winterisation: The conflict has destroyed the livelihoods that many families relied on. During the winter months the needs of the most vulnerable people increase even further. International Medical Corps has addressed the acute needs of those affected during harsh weather through the distribution of essential items such as heaters, blankets and coal while also providing those forced from their homes with cash grants that can be used for winter clothing, rent and weather-proofing the homes they currently reside in.
Child Protection, Psychosocial Support and Gender-based Violence Programs: To support children residing in areas of conflict, International Medical Corps and its partners create safe spaces that promote wellbeing, social and emotional development through recreational learning activities and awareness raising. Our teams also implement gender-based violence prevention and response activities for women and girls living close to the Line of Contact. We operate in these areas to provide youth and older people, including women and men, with opportunities to engage in recreational activities, learn about the dynamics of gender-based violence, and share approaches to address such issues and share their concerns—all in a safe environment. Our social workers provide comprehensive case management services for clients with protection concerns, including one-on-one counselling to survivors of gender-based violence and onward referrals to other health and support services.
Assessment to improve policy and operational guidance for strengthening integration of mental health into primary health care and other community-based service: International Medical Corps is carrying out a mental health needs assessment in three pilot oblasts with the goal of generating policy and operational guidance to strengthen integration of mental health into primary health care and other community based services. The assessment will focus on the most common mental disorders (anxiety, depression, distress and alcohol abuse), engaging various key stakeholders at the national, regional levels as well as global levels. As a result, we plan to distribute a comprehensive assessment outlining key policy recommendations for strengthening and expanding community based mental health care in Ukraine.