by Zoe Ripecky
Since an active conflict broke out in Eastern Ukraine between Ukrainian forces and Russian-backed groups several months ago, over 3,000 people have been killed overall. At least 6,000 people have been reported wounded. Last Tuesday, Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko stood before the United States Congress and made an urgent plea for supplies and military aid for the Ukrainian cause. Mr. Poroshenko was received in Washington with warmth and verbal support. The U.S. promised non-lethal assistance, though stopped short of supplying Ukraine with military aid.
Here in Kyiv, Ukraine’s Central Military Hospital is severely understaffed and undersupplied. The hospital receives some funding from the Ukrainian government, but not nearly enough to support the growing number of wounded servicemen coming in from the East. Because of an inadequate number of medical professionals, a large group of volunteers have offered their services. Anya, a nursing student, works at the hospital almost every day after her classes. During the “Maidan” protests she worked as a Red Cross volunteer. Like Anya, many others joined the “volunteer corps” as newly wounded Ukrainian soldiers overwhelmed the hospital over the past few months.
Photo: Telegraph Media Group UK
The soldiers are clothed and fed through donations from the community, explained a volunteer leader named Tanya. Even bedding and towels are donated, coming in mismatched sizes and colors. The volunteers now seek proper shoes and warmer clothing as winter nears.
Along with these more straightforward supplies, necessary antibiotics are also in short supply. Many of the wounded are amputees and suffer from severe infections, including gangrene. One type of antibiotic, used to fight this often-deadly infection, costs around $75 per dose and is needed twice a day. The hospital is too underfunded to purchase it in adequate amounts.
Leg injuries, typically amputations, are most common, apparently due to the use of rockets and other scatter weapons. Even the most critically wounded are in cramped conditions, with at least four patients to one room. According to Tanya, the hospital grounds currently house around 200 patients from the conflict, along with veterans and families of the wounded. Approximately 2,000 wounded have passed through since the conflict began.
Friends and families of soldiers come to visit, filling their bedside tables with fruit and gifts. Groups of relatives cram the hallways, anxiously awaiting news. One mother mourned her son’s amputated legs, but thanked God he was alive. The wounded soldiers are from all over Ukraine, and most of the ones I saw were Russian-speaking.
The rest of Kyiv is calm, isolated from Ukraine’s conflict-torn Donbas region. Around the world, leaders hesitate to acknowledge the growing scale of a Russian-fueled conflict, fearing political consequences. But here at Kyiv’s Military Hospital, reality is difficult to avoid. In Ukraine’s east a war rages on, taking severe human tolls.