Alone in a dark room. Air alarms and explosions outside. This is the situation in which 36-year-old Tatiana Yevhenivina gave birth to her ninth child. Just as approximately 80,000 other women who gave birth in Ukraine in the first three month since the escalation of war, Tatiana was not able to receive maternal health care or deliver her baby safe from fighting.
“I didn’t want to leave, but we were very afraid. There was a lot of fighting and shooting around us,” reflects Tatiana Yevhenivina, 36, about the day her family decides to flee from their home in Chernihiv, in the North-East of Ukraine. They leave, even though Tatiana is nine months pregnant. On their way to Kyiv, the 142-kilometer distant capital, they need to check with volunteers if the route is safe enough and where to sleep with ten people during curfew. “Every day on the road I was scared that the baby would come. We had some medicine and some clean sheets with us, and although my husband is not a doctor or a midwife, he was ready to support me,” says Tatiana.
The family now lives in Volyn Oblast in the North-West of Ukraine in the small house of her mother, who suffered a heart attack recently and is bedridden. Access to health care not only remains challenging due to severe service disruptions in those parts of the country where intensive fighting is taking place, it is also challenging in western regions where additional patients put a lot of workloads on medical staff. “The hospital here is far away and very expensive. At home we had a hospital close by and we could go regularly. I have a hip problem and my mother cannot move at all. We have nothing to move her, so we need to carry her,” Tatiana continues.
Internally displaced families and those people seeking refuge in Ukraine neighboring countries do not only need medical help, but also psychosocial support. According to the World Health Organization, one in five people are affected by mental health disorders in post-conflict settings. If left without treatment and adequate support, people from Ukraine face long-lasting effects that could harm themselves, their families and communities “It is difficult psychologically. We do not know what tomorrow will bring. At home we had plans for our future, now we do not even have plans for tomorrow,” says Tatiana. “I also do not know how to explain the war and what is happening to my children. The older ones stopped playing their instruments and do not sing anymore. I don’t know how to help them.”
To release stress and trauma, CARE and its partners support families like Tatiana’s with psychosocial activities, but also with psychological support sessions, and giving information on where to seek help, or anonymously through hotlines or support books. Tatiana and her family went on a kayaking tour organized by one of CARE’s partners. “It was amazing. The kids had fun and were distracted for the first time. We also received a food box for each child, and they were drawing pictures together,” concludes Tatiana.