Bringing hope to conflict-affected populations in Ukraine
Mikhail has been wheelchair-bound for as long as he can remember – but it was only when the conflict broke out in Ukraine in the summer of 2014 that the young man suddenly found himself unable to work and support himself and his younger brother.
Originally from Pavlivka village in Donetsk region, 30-year-old Mikhail had always enjoyed a happy and active lifestyle despite his disability.
“I used to love exercising and fishing,” Mikhail says. “I used to grow plants in my garden and I even made furniture, which I sold.”
All that changed when a neighbour’s home was brutally destroyed by shelling.
Knowing it was no longer safe, Mikhail fled with his younger brother to Mariupol, leaving everything they knew behind. They are lucky to be alive – but the rented house in Mariupol provides little comfort.
“I couldn’t bring my equipment to build furniture to earn additional income," Mikhail explains. "There is also no space for a garden where I could grow my own vegetables.”
The plant where Mikhail’s brother worked is closed as a result of the conflict, and they live on welfare and occasional odd jobs that the younger brother can find to make ends meet. Together, they live on less than 40 dollars a month.
Things only got worse when winter came. Having left most of their belongings behind, the brothers did not have enough clothes to keep them warm, and the electric costs of heating their house exhausted the little money they could make each month.
The fighting between armed groups and government forces in eastern Ukraine has led to the displacement of almost 2 million individuals in the country since 2014, while over 1.1 million Ukrainians have registered as refugees in bordering countries. The conflict has destroyed the livelihoods that many families rely on - and around 600,000 people are in need of shelter. During the cold winter months, the needs of these most vulnerable people increase even further.
International Medical Corps is working to address the acute needs of the affected population 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 premises they currently reside in.
As part of this initiative, Mikhail and his brother received a cash grant that allowed them to purchase coal, which helped them survive the harsh winter. With the funds from International Medical Corps, the brothers were also able to buy winter clothing and Mikhail was even able to afford boots designed to keep him warm and comfortable despite his disability.
In addition, International Medical Corps is working to support Mikhail’s brother in obtaining his documents from the organisation he used to work for – without which he could not get a stable job.
Every day is a new struggle for Mikhail and his brother - but with some of their basic needs met, Mikhail says that they have finally started the process of settling in to their new lives.