Tetiana's story gives courage to many people! Since February 2022, she has been able to bring more than 5,000 people, mainly persons with disabilities, to safety from Ukraine.
Today is exactly one year since Russian troops invaded Ukraine, an action that has brought untold suffering to Ukrainians.
Following official communication in the run-up to the anniversary, there is no end in sight that has been reported. Millions of people, including persons with disabilities, continue to live in uncertainty.
"Due to the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, millions of people, including internally displaced persons, returnees and host communities, are in urgent need of assistance and support. CBM is working with partners to ensure that affected people, especially persons with disabilities and their representative organisations are supported and not left behind in the response and recovery," says Heimo Duttle, CBM's Project Development Officer for Humanitarian Aid.
The invasion has triggered a humanitarian crisis that has displaced more than 6.5 million people in Ukraine and forced 7.8 million people to flee to neighbouring countries.
The war has had a particularly disproportionate impact on the safety and well-being of persons with disabilities: they often face life-threatening obstacles, such as a lack of accessible shelters and inclusive evacuation plans and humanitarian corridors. They also lack food, information and medical care.
There were over 2.7 million persons with disabilities registered in Ukraine before the war. In July 2022, it was estimated that 13% of families fleeing Ukraine have at least one member with a disability.
CBM has allocated 4.3 million euros in humanitarian aid to support Ukraine and its neighbouring countries. Part of this funding, 2.1 million euros, was channelled through the European Disability Forum to meet the immediate needs of persons with disabilities. Other funds supported Momentum Wheels for Humanity, Arbeiter-Samariter-Bund Deutschland and International Ophthalmological Fellowship Foundation.
Persons With Disabilities on the Run
Throughout the war, Tetiana Barantsova has helped persons with disabilities flee conflict areas and settle in safer towns in Ukraine or neighbouring countries. Tetiana is supported by CBM together with the member organisations of the European Disability Forum through the Ukraine Crisis Project: OPD Led Disability Inclusive Response and Recovery.
Tetiana, who is a wheelchair user herself, was forced to flee her home in the eastern Ukrainian city of Luhansk in 2014, where the first fighting took place. Her own flight opened her eyes to the challenges faced by persons with disabilities.
When Gunta Anca, Vice-President of the European Disability Forum (EDF), heard about the attack, she approached Tetiana and suggested she go to Riga in Latvia. Tetiana organised two cars and evacuated 16 Ukrainians, including eight children with disabilities, a 2-week-old baby, three wheelchair users and an 85-year-old woman.
With temperatures below freezing, the group set off from Kyiv in two cars and reached the border with Latvia three days later.
"We were lucky to have caught the right road. The journey was difficult, especially as a wheelchair user who could not leave quickly," says Tetiana, who is also a representative for the rights of persons with disabilities in Ukraine.
Tetiana works at SUSTENTO, the Latvian umbrella organisation for organisations of persons with disabilities. As part of the CBM-funded EDF programme for Ukraine, SUSTENTO helps Tetiana to connect refugees to safe shelters inside and outside Latvia like the Latvian Samaritan Federation for Ukrainian refugees with disabilities.
With this support, Tetiana brought more than 5,000 people, especially persons with disabilities, to safety during the war. She has also set up a hotline for persons with disabilities to call every day.
The project’s achievements
Following the escalation of the war, EDF partners quickly began assisting Ukrainian asylum seekers and refugees with disabilities and addressing their immediate needs, including access to shelter, medical care and other basic services. In the first phase of the project, most activities focused on these direct interventions. In Latvia, Poland, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Ukraine, the EDF response to the war in Ukraine has:
- Met the immediate needs of persons with disabilities, including food and essential items, accessible information and tools, and accessible transport to and from shelters, borders, and transit accommodations.
- Advocated for the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the work of larger humanitarian organisations, national governments, and EU/UN agencies.
- Strengthened the disability movement, including training, data collection and using the expertise of our members to promote the inclusion of persons with disabilities in the wider humanitarian community.
The combined efforts have reached 20,422 people in eight countries to support Ukrainian persons with disabilities and their families who are in Ukraine but have also left the country.