Everyone in Ukraine is facing a tough winter: At least one-third of the country’s energy infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed by Russian attacks, leaving millions without dependable power for water and heat as cold weather sets in. The situation changes constantly and rarely for the better.
Hospitals and health centers need power for patient care, equipment and safe storage of medicine and medical supplies. “Since the beginning of November, we have had blackouts every day. They last four to five hours daily. Every day we and our patients try to survive. Every day is a battle,” says Dr. Victor Kholin, deputy director of a gerontology hospital in a large city in eastern Ukraine.
Americares is working with partners in Poland and Ukraine to provide more than 25 generators to medical facilities – including where Dr. Kholin works – and health centers, including care homes for older people. This is part of an ongoing effort, made more urgent by the recent attacks and freezing temperatures. Americares is also funding partners in Eastern Ukraine to set up communal heating points, where hundreds of residents can stay warm and charge electronics, and also provide woodburning stoves and warm bedding for more than 2,000 people.
Ensuring health facilities have power is an ongoing effort. “In June, Americares with its Ukrainian partner Nezabutni, sent generators to four facilities assisting older people and people with disabilities in Ukraine. These are all installed and working,” says Adam Keehn, Americaresdirector of complex emergencies.
“Thanks to the generator we received from you, we can operate, treat patients, store medicine in the right way, and try to deal with these difficulties,” says Dr. Kholin. “We cut our consumption and now, this one generator enables us to operate on a minimum level. But I can’t even imagine how we could work without this generator and without your help.”“After a request from the Social Service of Ukraine to help provide diesel generators to the nursing homes and other facilities in the four regions in Ukraine, we made telephone calls to each institution directly and identified four institutions with the most urgent needs,” says Irina Shevchenko, founder and director of Nezabutni, a nonprofit focused on the needs of older people and those with dementia. In each location, she says, “there was no generator at all, or it was very old and not functioning.”
Generators are crucial not only for heat but also for the safety of medicine. Many medicines, including diabetes and cancer medications, require stable temperatures to be safe and effective. Since the beginning of the war, Nezabutni has been distributing medicine provided by Americares throughout Ukraine to individuals and institutions. Now, in face of repeating blackouts, keeping medicine fresh and ready to use is challenging.
“Our local area has been under occupation since the first day of the Russian military aggression: On the afternoon of February 24, columns of military equipment from the Russian Federation were already in our town,” says Shevchenko. “As a result of the hostilities, power lines were damaged, which led to a complete cessation of electricity supply in our district for a long time. Moreover, after the Russian shelling in October, the government started to cut off energy in busy hours while trying to fix the damaged facilities.” Attacks on energy infrastructure have continued.
“The facilities receiving generators have been chosen based on their needs,” says Americares Team Lead, Ukraine Response, Jake Wheeler. “We prioritized facilities by their lack of stable energy and the size of the population they serve, and we prioritized large regional hospitals that are a regional hub for care and resources.”
“Months of low temperature, combined with scarce and expensive gas, damaged and destroyed critical infrastructure and millions of displaced people, means that the demand for medical services in winter will only rise,” says Svitlana Muzychenko, founder of the nonprofit UA Brokers Without Borders, an Americares partner supporting health facilities across Ukraine that also received several generators. “Medical institutions will continue facing varied technical challenges to maintain steady operations. Quality and accessibility of medical services to the population during winter is a major concern given the country’s circumstances. Help from humanitarian organizations like Americares will be vital to guarantee that hospitals will be ready to care for the patients.”
The number of internally displaced people is still rising. If they are forced to live in facilities with inadequate heat, water and power, they will become vulnerable to health risks. Additionally, internally displaced people put an additional load on medical facilities where they relocate. For those health centers, which are also often providing emergency medical care around the clock, generators are crucial.
“Generators are our priority in this winterization project,” says Keehn. “However, due to ongoing attacks on energy infrastructure, the generators we provide will be in use long after winter, as they give facilities back-up energy sources in the face of energy disruptions.”
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