In January and February, fighting between the Ukrainian army and the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics escalated to a level not seen since August 2014, and had a devastating effect on civilians caught in the conflict zone.
MSF teams urgently expanded their support to hospitals on both sides of the frontline. However, heavy fighting trapped civilians in frontline towns and made it difficult for MSF to reach the hardest hit areas. Medical facilities were regularly shelled, forcing staff to flee and depriving thousands of people of healthcare. A ceasefire came into effect following the fall of the strategic city of Debaltseve on 18 February, three days after the signature of the Minsk II agreement.
In 2015, MSF donated medicines and medical equipment to more than 350 health facilities on both sides of the frontline, enabling the treatment of over 9,900 patients with conflict-related injuries and more than 61,000 with chronic diseases; additionally, 5,100 births were assisted. Teams also carried out around 159,900 basic healthcare consultations and 12,000 mental health consultations in cooperation with the Ministry of Health.
Supplying essential medicines
Although there was less fighting after the Minsk II agreement, shelling continued in many areas and medical needs remained on both sides of the demarcation line. Drug supplies had been disrupted or cut off for more than a year by this point and prices had increased significantly. People struggled to obtain antibiotics, painkillers and psychiatric drugs, as well as medications for chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, diabetes and heart and kidney disease. The supply of essential drugs for tuberculosis (TB) and HIV, as well as vaccinations for measles and polio, was also disrupted.
MSF became one of the major suppliers of medicines for chronic diseases to hospitals, health centres and homes for elderly and disabled people in the east of the country. Teams provided insulin to more than 5,000 diabetic patients in 16 hospitals in Gorlovka, Donetsk, Yenakevo, Starobesheve, Telmanovo and Novoazovsk, and also provided haemodialysis supplies for patients with advanced kidney failure in Gorlovka and Donetsk.
In addition, teams ran mobile clinics in 80 towns and villages around Donetsk, Luhansk, Artemovsk, Mariupol and Debaltseve and throughout Luhansk region, offering basic healthcare and mental health support to residents and displaced people.
Providing psychological support
MSF psychologists provided individual and group counselling sessions for people affected by the conflict, including those displaced or wounded, and the elderly and children. They also trained health workers, teachers and social workers.
Continuing multidrug-resistant TB (MDR-TB) treatment
Throughout the conflict, the MDR-TB programme that MSF has been managing in the penitentiary system in Donetsk region since 2011 continued until October. The team expanded its support to patients in penitentiary facilities in Mariupol, Artemovsk, Dnepropetrovsk and Zhdanivka.
First aid at checkpoints
MSF teams opened first aid and water points to assist people waiting in long queues in the freezing cold or intense heat who wanted to cross the frontline at the Artemovsk–Gorlovka, Volnavakha–Donetsk, and Mayorsk checkpoints.
MSF forced to cease activities in Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics
Although MSF succeeded in working on both sides of the frontline for most of the year, in September MSF’s permission to work was refused in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People’s Republic, and at the end of October, its accreditation in the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic was also withdrawn. The projects were closed, leaving thousands of people vulnerable and without access to essential medical care.
No. staff in 2015: 254 | Expenditure: €15.5 million | Year MSF first worked in the country: 1999 | msf.org/ukraine
Nina Dedukh – 64-year old patient receiving counselling from an MSF psychologist in Popasnaya
"When the war started, I was in Pervomaisk. My apartment and my daughter’s apartment were destroyed. We sought refuge here, in Popasnaya. Now we live 10 people in a one-room apartment. We hear shelling at night: it’s terrifying.
There is nothing crueller than when people close to you die. During this war my aunt, uncle and sister died. But when my daughter died it was horrible. She died in Pervomaisk in February. She was standing just behind the house when the shelling hit. Doctors were fighting for her life for one hour, but were unable to save her."