War on Ukraine: Protect people with intellectual disabilities and families

Ukraine: People with intellectual disabilities mustn't be abandoned

War on Ukraine: Protect people with intellectual disabilities and families


Donations: Ukraine VGO Coalition have told us that the best way to help is to make a donation to help in this situation.


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“Weeks of horror. And we cannot possibly leave.” – 10 March

International press heard from people with disabilities and their families in Ukraine what their situation is.

Some of the media coverage following the press conference:


How you can help: Main issues

1. Call on Russia to stop the war! This is the only way to prevent further harm and suffering.

  • Write to your governments to do all they can to stop the war, and to protect Ukrainian people.
  • Consider joining local protests against the Russian war.
2. Talk to governments and to humanitarian organisations to explain people with disabilities and families must be a central focus of all humanitarian action.
  • The VGO Coalition alone is 14,000 families of people with disabilities. They need help with daily supplies, medicines, shelters, hygiene products.
  • There are at least 100,000 people in care homes / institutions in Ukraine; 80,000+ children, thousands of adults with disabilities. Aid must try and reach them to see in what situation they are. There is great risk of them being abandoned, harmed by military action.

Support and information from our members

Inclusion Europe members join in promoting the information and supporting our Ukrainian friends and colleagues. We are adding information in various languages as we get them:

Disability inclusion in humanitarian aid

Resources for disability inclusion in humanitarian aid and emergency response:


Russia’s war on Ukraine, in the words of family members of people with intellectual disabilities, 8 March

Inclusion Europe is contacting families and organisation that are part of the VGO Coalition.

This is some of what we are hearing from them:

  • “So in the near future, their financial situation will deteriorate. Many have run out of food supplies. It is the need for food, or the means to buy food. Also medicines, hygiene products…”
  • “On 04.03.2022 in Uzhgorod there are 60,000 officially registered refugees. 7-10% of them are people with disabilities. There is a crisis: the stores run out of products, insufficient antiepileptic drugs, hygiene products.”
  • “Families are at home all the time, because our city is also under fire and there are constant airborne alarms.
  • Families are now in a state of shock, incomprehension, helplessness. Only 2 families from our members of the organisation have left.”
  • “There are already many requests for the essentials – products, medicines, hygiene products, adult nappies. If possible, torches, electric banks, sleeping bags…”
  • “They bomb outside the window, we sit in apartments with adult sons/daughters who do not understand why they can’t go outside, have aggression, seizures. We cannot leave them alone to go to store. There are long queues, unavailable products. No way to survive.”
  • “We need long-term storage food. There is still water, but not for drinking, so we also need that.”
  • “It’s bad [in institutions in the region]. Food is running out, heating is running out.”
There are 14,000 families like this in this network alone. Tens of thousands people in institutions.
  • Help whichever way you can, including by spreading the word.

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


“Millions with disabilities ‘abandoned’ in Ukraine”, 6 March

Warnings people with disabilities are being ‘left behind’ as refugees flee conflict, writes The Independent.

  • “There are 2.7 million people with disabilities in Ukraine, according to the European disability forum, while Inclusion Europe estimates there are around 261,00 people with intellectual disabilities.”

Adam Zawisny, from our member PSONI, says:

  • There is a “frightening […] black hole” in information on what to do in this situation.
  • Thousands of children from children’s homes had been evacuated to Poland over the last few days, partly because there were no staff in the institutions to care for them and due to dangers of being hit by shells.
  • This isn’t the case for adult residential and social care homes though: “It’s hard to believe that the situation will be better than in the homes for children which were evacuated.”

Obtaining medication, such as epilepsy pills, had become “impossible” and accessing bomb shelters “incredibly difficult” for people with conditions such as autism who were left to “just stay in their homes hoping for the best,” Milan Šveřepa says in the article.

  • Inclusion Europe said in a statement that it had also received reports this week of “families with their children with disabilities [living] in the bathrooms or basements to protect themselves from bombs”.

Full article here.

Russian forces take over psychiatric hospital in central Ukraine, governor says; Reuters


Help from Inclusion Europe members starts to reach Ukrainian families.


People with intellectual disabilities are caught up in the war in Ukraine – it is difficult to escape and understand the frightening changes, 5 March

Raisa Kravchenko from VGO Coalition gave an interview to Yle in Finland. The article talks about:

  • A few days ago, police arrested Raisa’s son because he was outside, in violation of curfew. Raisa’s son is 37-years old and has intellectual disabilities. “He’ll get agitated if he can’t get out. He is used to going out every day and it is part of his daily routine,” Raisa said.
  • After the war broke out, the local residential service where Raisa’s son was staying in Kyiv closed [it is used by Ukrainians who fled the war], and he returned returned to live with his mother outside of Kyiv. “I am physically disabled myself, and caring for my son is hard. It is difficult for us to go anywhere.”

There are around 100 000 people officially classified as having intellectual disability in Ukraine. An estimated 30,000 of them live in various care centres.

  • In 1994, Raisa Kravchenko founded the Ukrainian Association for Parents with Intellectual Disabilities and has later been a member of the VGO Coalition, a national umbrella organisation for voluntary organisations in the field.
  • According to her, the situation of people with intellectual disabilities in Ukraine was difficult even before the war. “Two years ago, the funding of our organisations was driven down. I don’t know if this has anything to do with preparing for war or not. Services have been cut all the time.”

On Friday, the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) estimated that more than 1.25 million people have left Ukraine since the war began.

  • Fleeing abroad with children with intellectual disabilities is difficult and many have decided to stay put or simply change their place of residence in Ukraine.
  • Sudden changes in routines can be difficult for people with intellectual disabilities. The situation is made difficult by the fact that people with intellectual disabilities may not be able to understand the causes of the changes.

There is also this article in Spanish with information about the situation in Ukraine.


“We are holding on”, 4.3.

“The situation is complex and different in different places. In Kyiv, fighting, frequent alarms, should be covering in shelters or basements day and night.

Most mothers are powerless and simply stay in apartments with adult children with intellectual disabilities during airstrikes.

There are no prescription drugs and little food – not all are delivered to stores.

So far, state pensions and disability benefits are paid by card, but not all shops and pharmacies accept money from cards, and ATMs have to stand in line for hours.

Children with behavioural disorders are scared and therefore they have aggressive behaviour.

Many European countries accept refugees from Ukraine, but there are younger mothers who have children with disabilities, mothers of older people with disabilities are afraid of not being able to stand the road.”

Raisa Kravchenko via VGO Coalition facebook page


Updates 3.3.

Appeal from the National Assembly of People with Disabilities of Ukraine  – European Disability Forum



Appeal from help from Ukraine, 2.3.

There was a call today with Inclusion Europe member in Ukraine, the VGO Coalition. Many of our members across Europe attended to offer solidarity, and specific support.

The VGO Coalition shared their appeal for help:

We are a network of 118 Ukrainian local non-governmental organizations for persons with intellectual disabilities representing abut 14 thousand families from all the regions of Ukraine.

  • We appreciate highly numerous letters of support and requests about our situation from our international friends.
  • The war came to every Ukrainian home.
  • The duties of providing for a family member with intellectual and behaviour disability became much harder now, all our time is dedicated to our beloved ones who survive special storm of turmoil not being able to comprehend the surrounding mess.
  • The families of Ukrainians with intellectual disabilities survive very difficult times.

In total, over 261 thousand Ukrainians are awarded official disability status due to a psychiatric diagnosis.

  • All day centres are closed, all community based services stopped, some cope with this with challenging behaviour, the mothers are exhausted, they often have attacks of their own (the mothers’) illness.
  • All in addition to bombing, Russian saboteurs’ groups, shortage of foodstuff, queues to the cash machines, pharmacies, lack of access to medical services etc.

We badly need your help.

Other issues mentioned during the call:

  • “Russian-owner banks are blocked by sanctions. Local associations that have accounts there don’t have access to their bank accounts.”
  • “Families with their children with disabilities live in the bathrooms or basements to protect themselves from bombs.”
  • “Not possible to leave Kyiv. Roads are destroyed or blocked.”
  • “Yesterday, a car marked with disability sign was shot at, and people killed.”
  • “In one city, people were invited by loudspeaker to come for bread by the Russians. When they did, they were captured for human shields.”
  • See the presentation VGO Coalition shared (.pptx).

Listen to the appeal from VGO Coalition:

What Inclusion Europe is doing: 

  1.  Continue advocacy focused on our priority: Protect those who remain in Ukraine (details below from 26.2.)
  2. Distributing help via local contacts
  3. Fundraising with Inclusion Europe: Direct support to people with intellectual disabilities and families in Ukraine


Update on offers of support, 26.2.

Our friends in Kyiv talk to CNN: People with disabilities and mobility issues find themselves trapped in Kyiv


We receive many messages of solidarity and support for our Ukrainian friends, both from Europe, and overseas.
We thank you all, and we pass them on.
We know they mean a lot to people in Ukraine, who are under grave threat to their lives as we write this.
In response to many requests of support:
1. Call on Russia to stop the war now!
That is the only way to prevent further harm and suffering.
2. Write to your governments to do all they can to stop the war, and to protect Ukrainian people.
Consider joining local protests against the Russian war.
3. Talk to your governments and to humanitarian organisations to explain people with disabilities and families must be a central focus of all humanitarian planning.
There are already food shortages in Ukraine.
There will be many suffering from anxiety, lack of medication.
There will be many left without support: Including possibly those in care institutions as people are fleeing the country, and many have to go to fight.
4. Fundraising
It is difficult to organise any direct support right now given the situation.
We are exploring ways to coordinate fundraising for people with intellectual disabilities and families in Ukraine.
We will update you as soon as we have specifics in place. (update 4.3.: You can contribute your donation here.)
Thank you for your support.
To our friends in Ukraine: We see you! We are with you!
Please stay safe.

Updates 25.2.

Soufiane El Amrani talks about the situation and what is urgently needed:


EDF letter to authorities to protect people with disabilities:

  • There are 2.7 million persons with disabilities registered in Ukraine.
  • Persons with disabilities living in institutions, already cut off from their communities, risk being abandoned and forgotten.
  • At least 82,000 children are segregated from society, with countless more adults with disabilities permanently institutionalised 


Urgent need for humanitarian support (24.2.)

Following the full-scale Russian invasion, this is what our colleagues in Ukraine tell us as priorities at the moment:

Providing basic supplies, and especially medicine (thousands of people rely on medication every day, eg for epilepsy).

  • Already today supplies were complicated, internet connection breaks down.
  • If the fighting continues (as is likely), the situation will only get worse.
  • There are 10,000 families taking care of their members with disabilities part of the NGO coalition.

Ensure safety and wellbeing of those in institutions. 

  • There are 80,000 children, and adults with disabilities in care homes in Ukraine.
  • There is a big risk of these people being abandoned in the institutions, or possibly harmed during the fighting.

We need humanitarian organisations to reach out to families, and to include people with intellectual disabilities in their planning and interventions.


NGO Coalition calls for support (23.2.):

The threat of hostilities necessitates the following assistance for Ukrainians with intellectual disabilities:

  • training courses on safe behaviour, the basics of health protection, the ability to recognize and avoid risks, evacuate and seek help – all in plain language and with the involvement of experienced professionals;
  • development and dissemination of information on safe behaviour, actions in risk situations, emergency telephones – in easy-to-read format;
  • creation by welfare bodies (with the help of guardianship committees) of the lists of families caring for a person with a disability dependent on external care, and development of personal assistance plans for such families at risk;
  • psychological assistance and training for families;
  • organization of volunteer assistance to families consisting exclusively of people in need of external personal assistance (all family members with disabilities, families where an elderly mother cares for an adult daughter / son with behavioural disorders, etc.) and development plans of emergency support for such cases.

However, so far neither national nor local authorities have initiated a dialogue with NGOs to identify the needs of Ukrainians with intellectual disabilities at risk and have not reported on security measures.

Still, the following human rights issues discussed remain relevant (selection):

  • the need to develop special measures to overcome discrimination against people with intellectual disabilities;
  • redirecting resources from institutions to community care, involving the international community in influencing the Ukrainian government to fulfil its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.


Original post (22.2.)

The threat of another Russian war was hanging over Ukraine for weeks. It was in that context our Ukrainian member reached out to us calling for attention and support to people with intellectual disabilities and their families in the country. We had discussions about what the situation is, and how we could help. Then, Russia decided to go ahead with the threats, and move its army to eastern Ukraine. This makes all of this even more poignant, and urgent.

“The threat of Russian aggression distracts attention from the rights of persons with intellectual disabilities,” said the NGO Coalition for persons with intellectual disabilities. “Already, the world has been living in a Covid-19 pandemic for almost 2 years, which has been difficult for everyone. But it shouldn’t justify a sharp decline in the quality of life of Ukrainians with intellectual disabilities. And now the situation got even worse, putting people with intellectual disabilities under the highest risk.”

The coalition organised a survey about the situation, in which 107 NGOs of persons with intellectual disabilities and their families from 24 Ukrainian regions answered:


  • More than a half of the local associations reduced the support they provide, or stopped their activities altogether.
  • Financial support to NGOs from local authorities dropped.

One local organisation described their current situation in a call mid-February: Their education centre for people with intellectual disabilities closes this week. They are closing because of a lack of money. They were in operation for 25 years.

The speaker made a point of appealing not only to national authorities, but to international funders too: “We need money for day-to-day activities, not for festivals or celebrations.”

The Ukrainian NGO coalition calls on the responsible authorities to improve funding for supported living.


  • To bring it on equal footing financially with what residential “care institutions” receive.
  • To make changes to law for better access to support services in the community.

And this was before Russia illegally moved its army into Ukraine on 21 February.

We can only imagine what the situation is now, especially in the East of Ukraine:


  • There are military actions reported every day.
  • Thousands of people from that area were bussed to Russia.

This leaves people with disabilities, living with families or in “care institutions”, in a vulnerable position and at grave risk of harm.

The lives and rights of people with intellectual disabilities and their families must be protected.

Organisations supporting people with intellectual disabilities should benefit from the financial support the European Union is providing to Ukraine.

It is every country’s obligation to protect those at risk. The international community should do everything in their powers to support them in that task.


Our work brings the voice of people with intellectual disabilities and their families where decisions about their future are made.

This has always been incredibly important. It is even more so with the Covid pandemic drastic impact on their rights and lives.

Being visible and vocal on issues directly affecting millions of people requires your support. 

Become Inclusion Europe supporter and help us keep doing our work.