The war in Ukraine over the past year has had a devastating impact on the disabled and the elderly. These populations may be particularly vulnerable during conflicts and humanitarian crises, as they risk being left behind or deprived of essential services, including supportive aids. People with disabilities and injuries can rely on assistive technology (AT) to maintain their independence and dignity, and for food, sanitation and health care.
To help Ukraine meet the need for additional treatment, WHO, in collaboration with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, is implementing a project to provide essential food for internally displaced people in the country. This was done through the purchase and distribution of specialized AT10 kits, each containing 10 items identified as most needed by Ukrainians in emergency situations. These kits include mobility aids such as crutches, wheelchairs with pressure relief pads, canes and walkers, as well as personal care products such as catheter sets, incontinence absorbers, and toilet and shower chairs.
When the war started, Ruslana and her family decided not to go to the orphanage in the basement of a high-rise building. Instead, they hide in the bathroom, where the children sometimes sleep. The reason for this decision was the disability of Ruslana Klim’s 14-year-old son. Due to cerebral palsy and spastic dysplasia, he cannot walk and is confined to a wheelchair. Several flights of stairs prevented the teenager from getting into the shelter.
As part of the AT10 project, Klim received a modern, height-adjustable bathroom chair and a brand new wheelchair. His previous wheelchair was old, unsuitable and in need of careful maintenance. “Honestly, we are just in shock. It is absolutely unrealistic,” Ruslana said about Klim’s new wheelchair. “You have no idea how much easier it would be for a child to move around if they had the opportunity from the very beginning.”
Klim, experiencing independence, has always been important for the family, especially since Ruslana joined her online work. AT makes it possible for them. “I calmed down knowing that he wasn’t in bed all the time,” Ruslana said. Klim first used a wheelchair as a child and it changed her life. “He can roll around and turn his chair to any angle. He even manages to open the nightstand to get to his toys. He used to be able to open it only after gym class, but now he does it himself while I’m at school.” Job. I could tell that he began to live a more fulfilling life.”
Ludmila is a 70-year-old retired math teacher from Chernihiv. Despite only having one functioning arm, she has adapted to housework and maintains a positive attitude and sense of humor. “I learned how to do a lot with one hand,” she said confidently with a slight smile on her face. “I can do laundry, wash dishes and even cook.”
But Lyudmila was still moving around without the support of her family before she received a wheelchair from a local hospital as part of the AT10 project. “I just stay at home or sit on a bench outside my house, but now I can go out into the city and talk to people,” she said. She is glad that the weather has improved and she can wheelchair ride to her country residence, which is more accessible than her city apartment. Ludmila also mentions the benefits of her new shower chair, which is safer and more comfortable than the wooden kitchen chair she used before.
AT had a great impact on the teacher’s quality of life, allowing her to live more independently and comfortably. “Of course, my family is happy and my life has become a little easier,” she said.