War-Torn Ukraine – No Country for Seniors

The world’s highest proportion of war-affected seniors is in Ukraine presently. The current hostility is having an overwhelming human toll on the senior citizenry of Ukraine. One-third of the 3.4 million individuals dependent on humanitarian aid are 60 years old. When the violence sprang up in 2014, the younger generation left, but the seniors stayed behind, barely managing to survive. 

Nobody Wins In A War, Eventually, Everybody Loses 

Senior citizens in Ukraine are left in the cold while being caught in the crossfire. Taking into account the intermittent bursts of shelling, they have to go about making meaning of whatever meagre supplies and commodities are available in the war zone. Pensioners have depleted their resources, and economic challenges are only fanning the flames of stress and struggles of daily life in their declining years. Ukrainian government’s latest measures to sustain and counter the military conflict have caused thousands of seniors to lose their pension, which was their only financial security in their twilight years. Trapped in the current military and bureaucratic ordeal, for their pension seniors have to journey across eastern Ukraine and wait in long lines there. 

Studies carried out in Ukraine after the 2014 conflict, spotlight the specific risks seniors will confront if this conflict continues to escalate, including: 

  • Risk of extreme income shortages as almost every senior affected (99%) relied on pension as their chief source of income. The pension can get reduced or temporarily suspended due to a shortage of resources in a war-torn nation, or it can get disrupted if the seniors cannot access payment points due to safety reasons.  
  • Challenges in evading or avoiding fighting may cause them to separate from their families, leading to social exclusion and isolation. The massive majority (96%) of seniors scrutinised experienced conflict-related mental health issues. 
  • A scarceness of access to and difficulty in affording healthcare. 97% of people examined had a minimum of one chronic disease, and unfortunately no access to healthcare, which epitomises a major issue. 
  • Absence of support and poor living conditions for individuals with disabilities. Over half (53%) of seniors reported the need for assistive devices, including canes, walking frames, and toilet chairs. 

As per the UN in Ukraine, because of limited freedom of movement and shortage of healthcare and rehabilitation services, seniors and individuals with disabilities are among the most unsafe in the war-ridden area of eastern Ukraine. The UN assessments are that 1.6 million people living close to the battle zone on both sides of the border are above 60 and have a minimum of one chronic illness. 

Wretched Conditions For Seniors In War-Ravaged Ukraine 

At the checkpoints on the Ukrainian side, Human Rights Watch found long queues, inadequate assistive devices, and a shortage of services for people with limited mobility and other disabilities; priority crossing for susceptible people was still not consistently provided. 

The issues were most outrageous at Stanitsa Luhanska. There were no basic sanitary facilities, drinking water, and medical aid was not obtainable in the area between checkpoints controlled by Russia-backed armed groups and Ukraine. 

Ukraine is involved in several international human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CPRD), and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). Both nations involved in the armed conflict must also respect the international humanitarian laws binding to non-international armed conflict.

The ICCPR and the ECHR protect the rights to home and family and the right to freedom of movement within a territory. At the same time none of these rights is absolute, authorities should ensure that individuals safely & expeditiously can cross the line and that there are no unnecessary barriers created, by procedures, avoidable logistical issues or bureaucratic delays. Similarly, the same applies when crossing the line is necessary for rights that the ICESCR protects, namely the right to health. International humanitarian law provides that seniors and people with disabilities are to be considered for protection and respect. The CRPD also requires countries to take measures to ensure the safety and protection of individuals with disabilities in risky circumstances, including situations of armed conflict, the occurrence of natural disasters, and humanitarian emergencies. 

Even though Russia has announced humanitarian corridors for Ukrainians running away from several war-torn cities including the capital, now Russia says people will be permitted to escape only as long as they migrate to Russia or Belarus. 

A major humanitarian catastrophe can be averted if the nations involved honour international humanitarian laws and put the safety of civilians at the highest priority.. 

In Essence 

Seniors are often unable to escape from war zones and are left alone without family or community. They get secluded, without their loved ones, and are without support, including the basic necessities of food and medicine. Seniors are specifically vulnerable when violence erupts and may be unable to shelter from danger. Oftentimes nervous and disheartened to leave their homes and last ones to beat a retreat from danger, the seniors in Ukraine are deserted without the care of their family and other essential resources and are barely surviving. This military conflict for seniors is embodied in them waiting in their battered homes grappling to stay warm, healthy, safe, and clean, an increasingly challenging task as the war rages on with just one practical solution in sight, end the war, or it will end them. 

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