War refugees with disabilities in Poland – situation, support, needs

War refugees with disabilities in Poland - situation, support, needs

War refugees with disabilities in Poland - situation, support, needs

8 March Milan Šveřepa spoke with Adam Zawisny from our member in Poland PSONI. They talked about Ukrainian refugees with disabilities, and how organisations in Poland are helping. 

Here you can listen to what Adam said about the situation. Listen to Inclusion Europe Radio for more information from Ukraine.


Notes from the conversation:

There are about 1,1 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland. And the numbers increase every day, by 70-100 thousand people. There is no specific data on people with disabilities.

We can see that in evacuation, people with disabilities are not in the first wave. But now, their numbers are growing.


When it started, waiting times at the borders were up to 70 hours. Now at some crossings it is something from a couple of hours to 10 hours.

And that is just waiting at the border. It is not possible for many people with disabilities.

More people with disabilities arriving to Poland

Children are arriving after being evacuated from orphanages. Some of them disabilities, perhaps 10% of them.


Each day, organised groups of persons who need high support arrive. This are people who have intellectual disabilities, combined disabilities, medical conditions.

This is a good sign, because more people can get through. It means much more work needs to be done to accommodate and support them.

Support from PSONI

PSONI is helping from day one. 20 of the local branches are in the regions close to the border.

From days 4 or 5, PSONI Gdansk set up an information phoneline, supported by the government. Border guards and people with disabilities themselves can call and get information.

Now more than 50 PSONI branches offer organised support, such as families taking children to their homes.


We are trying to have both short term and long term stays. Accessible transports. Places of education, rehabilitation.

Some schools have already taken in children with disabilities.

Capacity on a breaking line

We are already on a breaking line. And more people arrive every day. Some need very high levels of support (approx.. 100 a day). We are already full in many places.

We need more coordinated support. NGOs cannot cope with all this on their own for long.


What needs to be done:

  • Information is lacking even if we are working already with so many NGOs (elderly, foster care, disability).
  • Systemic response: accessibility of the process on the border crossing, waiting time, humanitarian corridors that are sometimes working sometimes not.

Support centre for temporary support will be set up in a few days to help people in temporary stay and assess needs. This will help to find suitable places to stay, short or long term stay, etc.

Urgent needs

  • Medicine, medical care.
  • Rehabilitation items, wheelchairs (especially for children), walkers (running short on that now).
  • Specialised bed, specialised support.
  • Accommodation for people with disabilities.

But it is difficult to be very specific, because situation is moving fast.

How to offer support

For now, we do not have one address for everything, this is something we are trying to arrange. [this page has useful contacts in Poland]


People left in residential care institutions in Ukraine

5,000 children from orphanages came to Poland. Official numbers are much lower because many children don’t go in official numbers. This makes it harder to coordinated. At least 10% have disabilities.

Some of these evacuations were organised by organisations for foster care. Sometimes, staff from the orphanages took the children to evacuate.

Still, there are about 80 to 100 thousand children in Ukraine.


We know about one place with adults from institutions who managed to cross the border.


The problem is that many of these institutions are not in highly populated areas, making it harder to reach them.

There must be an evacuation of these places: There are shortages of food, medical supplies in institutions. Hard to imagine places where people will not suffer devastatingly.


More information:

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