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Social institutions in war conflict zone. Who and when will take responsibility for people salvation?

28.04.15 | KHiSR | picture by hromadske.tv

Live at www.hromadske.tv where was the Minister for Social Policy of Ukraine Pavlo Rozenko has left an oppressive impression. Demonstrated confidence that the situation is under control and everything is being done that should be done. It seems the Minister passed by inheritance from his predecessor and is a clear signal that the work over mistakes have not been done. Another signal of this, is that for the complete failure of social institutions evacuation from the conflict zone no one was brought to justice. This means that it was necessary.
However, do not be deceived by cheerful statements of officials. Unfortunately, the situation is much more troublesome than it might seem.
Prior to the outbreak of conflict in the east of Ukraine, institutions of the Ministry of Social Policy (homes for aged and disabled, children’s homes, inpatient units of local social services centers, boarding homes for war and labor veterans, neuropsychiatric boarding schools, orphanages for children, centers social and psychological rehabilitation of children) had more than 10,000 clients. It’s not just people who can get up and leave when the town will set under shelling. These are people with disabilities, children with disabilities, aged people, people with neuropsychiatric diagnosis.
And, unfortunately, in addition to military aggression, there is a number of other reasons why they have not been removed and have become hostages of the situation:
The first reason is the decision of the Ukrainian Government to terminate the financing of social benefits in areas beyond the control of the central government (the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine Circular 595 dated November, 07 2014). It’s hard to find another decision that would satisfy such a rigorous determination. At the time of its adoption there were good reasons, but the situation has changed significantly. Furthermore, it should also be understood that budgets of social institutions largely consisted of pensions and salaries of staff. And the only reason why the situation steadily deteriorated during the year, led not only to decreasing clients’ life quality, but also to an outflow of personnel. As a result, certain categories of clients it has become a matter of life and death.
The second reason is inability to establish communication with authorities of the uncontrolled territories and representatives of Russia, who are engaged in humanitarian issues. There are many legal and ideological aspects that government frankly did not want to solve, and it has brought the situation to a standstill. Now the Ministry for Social Policy of Ukraine completely lost touch with the territories that are in the combat zone and has no data on how many agencies are working there and how many children and people they contain. No communication - there is no way to help, and the authorities do not consider the possibility of helping at the occupied territory, despite the fact that the region is running a number of international humanitarian missions that could deliver this aid. Information on the status of these institutions comes solely from volunteers’ groups that are engaged in humanitarian aid and international organizations. Their reports and records show that there was a critical situation - a significant part of the staff left, almost no drugs, no food reserves, in some institutions there are shortages of water and electricity. All these adversely affects the quality of life and yet leads to increased mortality.
The third reason is the moment when social institutions can and must be evacuated from the combat zone, hopelessly lost. This should have been done in summer, just after the termination of funding of institutions, when the conflict was not so strong, the front line was more transparent, and the enemy was not so organized and more negotiable. Recent developments in crossing checkpoints showed that organized evacuation impossible.
Another aspect of this problem is that almost all of the evacuated institutions, all of which were implemented, occurred within the region borders. Thus, according to the data of the Ministry of Social Policy from Donetsk and Luhansk regions on March 26, 2015 were evacuated 1,751 people from social institutions and in 1425 were taken within the same region. This means that 80% of people were evacuated in the area close to operations at a distance of artillery hit. Special Programme for further evacuation does not exist, and although the country has a significant number of vacant beds in boarding schools and orphanages, people are living in overcrowded institutions in the Donetsk and Luhansk Regions, where in addition to a huge number of internally displaced persons (according to Minister data as of January, 01 2015 all children’s homes: planned capacity - 3736, actually available persons - 2390, geriatric and disabled: planned capacity - 8,125, actually available - 7025 persons; pensions for war and labor veterans - 6738 places to and 5726 persons are available correspondingly).
In this regard, we have a simple question to the Minister and other high level officials: why is not being set up a single body that would deal with social institutions located in a war zone? In most of these institutions there are extremely vulnerable clients who can not leave them alone, they need to be evacuated in a national scale. This evacuation requires significant resources, humanitarian corridors, special equipment, medical specialists and psychologists, as well as agencies around the country, ready to accept people in conditions that are no worse than those in which they lived before. If you are unable to evacuate such institutions, this body should regularly assess the situation and needs, and create a permanent program of aid to these institutions.
Since this question has been asked for many times, answers are already standard and not once voiced by government officials at meetings and roundtables. But none of the traditionally cited arguments why this simple script has not yet been brought to life, is not justified:
Suggestion 1. These agencies are on the balance of local authorities, and they are responsible for them. We have no authorities.
Even if it’s an excuse and had some meaning in civilian life, it is completely lost it now. Ministries are responsible for their wards as for Ukrainian citizens who find themselves in difficult circumstances and must save them. In time of war, if you want to save lives, it is possible to bypass many of the rules, as exchanges of prisoners of war were done beyond legal procedures.
Suggestion 2. No one in those territories will not allow us to implement programs of aid and evacuation.
Widespread and blatant lies, which helps to do nothing to help people and to shift responsibility for their inaction. In addition to numerous cases in which humanitarian aid from the Ukrainian side has successfully reached the destination at uncontrolled territories, there is a huge resource of international organizations, which often simply locked reluctance to do something. The result - the aid is in storage, stopped at check - points, and people in institutions do not have vitally needed items. The final pint would be that international organizations and volunteers will bring the aid from the side of Russia that put a stain on the reputation of our country.
Suggestion 3. Coordination agencies responsible for evacuation and assistance to people at uncontrolled territories are regional staff headquarters of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.
Unfortunately, it is not true. Despite the fact that the Service is one of the few agencies that does its best to cope with the influx of IDPs, the main task of these staffs is the work with already resettled, but not their evacuation. Moreover these headquarters do not assist territories, where evacuation is impossible.
It is obvious that public officials are dreaming that all the work will be dome by volunteers and international organizations that are overcoming all problems and deliver humanitarian aid THERE and bring people OUTHERE. It is very convenient to say live on a TV channel the phrase "we with volunteers" and tell everybody what has been done by volunteers. It is very convenient - to say that "cooperation with international organizations is in action" and "every day we pass them address of institutions", when in fact these lists for a long time in the public access.
It is also clear that ministries and Prosecutors’ Office failed with their obligations, which is obliged to ensure that the state cares about people staying under their custody.
However, this does not solve the problem - on both sides of the front line in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have accumulated tens of thousands of people in need of immediate assistance and are unable to help themselves. Systemic measures could only solve this problem when institutions, volunteer groups and international organizations will work together. Only such cooperation would allow regular assessment of the situation, risks and needs; evacuation plan strategy and assistance; develop plans for various possible scenarios and to seek funding to help so many people. Only in this case, the ministers will be able to afford to radiate confidence on television.