by Ole Hengelbrock
“After the evaluation trip of the Cap-Anamur chairman Werner Strahl, I am now in the Ukraine for six weeks to plan hospital support. Together with our interpreter and our partner organization, I visited various medical facilities in the first weeks and laid the organizational foundation for the new aid project.
Cap Anamur is initially involved in two hospitals: The Svitlodarsk Hospital is located in the middle between Luhansk and Donetsk, directly on the so-called Zero Frontline. This region has been under constant fire for several months. In the neighboring town of Myronivka, where we support a second hospital, the fighting this spring was sometimes the most severe in this war – with many dead on both sides. Some areas are still mined. Many inhabitants moved away, but then had to return, because life is much more expensive in the west.
Both hospitals belonged to the village of Debalzewe, which is about 25 kilometers away. When Debalzewe was under fire, all official structures collapsed. As a result, deliveries and supplies for affiliated hospitals also collapsed. As a result, there has been no support in the form of medicines, materials or salaries for eight months. Other institutions such as schools and kindergartens are also affected. Retired and chronically ill people are currently not receiving any benefits, since Svitlodarsk and Myroniwka are in no man’s land, meaning that they do not belong to any regulatory sphere.
Debalzewe is located in the territory of the separatists. The two parties to the conflict are therefore directly and actively opposed to each other here. The situation is difficult and incalculable. It can start again from one minute to the next. Nevertheless: Life and work continue. Hence, a good half of the hospital staff still come to work, even though no salary has been paid for some time. It is wonderful to see how the staff treat patients with so much sympathy and care. Other employees have moved away from the region because they have to try to earn money elsewhere. But if the staff is not there, the hospital will also collapse.
Due to the tense situation, working on site is a special challenge. Not only because of the active shelling, but also because the conflict is politically highly explosive, and one can quickly be drawn to one side and thus become a target for the other side. The population of Svitlodarsk and Myronivka comes from “both camps”. More Russian than Ukrainian is spoken here, and almost no English. People no longer argue which side is the better one, they only wish for peace. There are no open aggressions among each other. But you can see the deep traces of this war in the minds of the people. “It hurts to see your home burning,” said one elderly man.
We feel welcome in the city. When we still stayed on the spot after a night of heavy bombardment, the people were very surprised. Such situations and gestures are very important because they underline our credibility and show the people that we really want to support them. That creates trust.
Support for the hospitals
Our help is already underway: Besides paying salaries for the hospital staff, we are currently preparing a delivery of urgently needed medicines and materials. This includes reinforced plastic foil for the broken windows. New panes cannot yet be installed, as shooting is still going on.
We have also found a local partner, the East Ukraine Human Rights Group. The young lawyers are trying to put pressure on the government to fulfill its obligations in the future and to support the medical facilities again. The cooperation with a local organization is very useful: people know how to help themselves, much better than we can. But they need a partner at their side. They have now found one with Cap Anamur.
What worries us is the approaching cold season. Many window panes in hospitals and residential buildings are destroyed. It happens again and again that electricity and hot water fail because the nearby power station is under fire. The food situation becomes more dramatic. In addition, the number of patients increases in the autumn and winter season. But the parties to the conflict seem to dig in. So the war will not abate for the time being, no matter what is discussed in Minsk.
I am glad to meet the people and to have found ways to take the next steps with them”.
About Ole Hengelbrock:
For almost two years, social worker Ole Hengelbrock worked for Cap Anamur on the street children project Pikin Paddy in Freetown/Sierra Leone. After the outbreak of the Ebola epidemic, the 27-year-old’s most important task was to protect the children entrusted to him from the virus. Within a few weeks, the young man from Borgloh set up a new project with the shelter for Ebola orphans and contact children.