Disabled people in facilities across Ukraine are being mistreated and neglected, according to the UK’s BBC News investigation, where sources acquired access to five institutions and discovered extensive abuse and mistreatment, including teenagers restrained in cots for years.

The investigation found up to 100,000 children and young people who were living in inhumane conditions in Ukrainian orphanages, many of whom were not even orphans.

The investigators also visited one facility, which housed disabled men in their twenties and thirties in children’s cots. The investigators saw that they rarely left their cots, even to eat, with staff spoon-feeding them through the bars.

Disabled people are now commodities in “factories of disability,” according to Eric Rosenthal, CEO of the disability rights organisation Disability Rights International (DRI).

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He claims that after visiting hundreds of these facilities, he is consistently astounded and heartbroken by what he discovers.

Rosenthal believes that the war cannot be used to justify such deplorable care because disabled people have been neglected for decades in Ukraine. He also stated that “orphanages do not need to exist.” in Ukraine.

According to disability rights activist, the massive amounts of foreign aid that were diverted into Ukraine during the conflict should also be used to close such orphanages. He argued Ukraine should assist families in caring for their children and create a society that accepts people with disabilities.

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Though Rosenthal is concerned that even if some of the funds will be used to maintain institutions, once the war is over, “international attention to Ukraine will fade, and the orphanages will remain as they are.”

 

However, Ukraine was one of Europe’s poorest countries prior to the war, which is one fundamental reason for the horrifying state of orphanages in the country.

 

The director of one of the institutions, Mykola Sukholytkyi, believes poverty and a lack of assistance for lower income families contribute to the belief that these facilities are required.

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“It is better for children with disabilities to live here, rather than with their families.” He argued.

 

Sukholytkyi further stressed, “Instead of being in dysfunctional families where they can be uncared for, without food, here they can benefit from all the essentials.”

 

Human rights experts advise Ukraine to delay joining the EU until these institutions are dismantled. Systemic reform was promised by the Ukrainian administration before the war.

 

The Ukrainian government began relocating thousands of “orphans” into family-style group homes before the war caused plans to come to an abrupt halt. But these plans have not included those who are disabled.

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