Today is the first anniversary of the war, which brought unprecedented challenges to the health and well-being of communities in Ukraine. We express our deep sorrow for the losses suffered by Ukrainians, and our support to all those who continue to fight for peace and freedom in Ukraine.
Despite the prolonged active hostilities, the real consequences of ongoing events for the region of Eastern Europe and Central Asia are not easy to assess. Unemployment, forced migration, no access to medical care or mental health support have affected each and every one, but in difficult times the most vulnerable segments of the population, as it usually happens, remain the most unprotected. In particular, HIV-positive Ukrainians who have lost access to treatment, as well as gays, bisexuals, other men who have sex with men and trans* people in general found themselves at risk— they have lost access to timely provided prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.
ECOM, among other organizations in the NGO delegation to the Global Fund, was one of the first to respond to the invasion with a call for massive support for Ukraine in order to restore services, meet urgent needs and ensure continued access to the most important means of prevention, care and treatment.
Food, hygiene products, medicine, clothing, temporary housing — we continue to process individual requests for humanitarian assistance for all members of the LGBT community in Ukraine. In addition to direct targeted support, ECOM assists LGBT and trans* organizations both in Ukraine and abroad. Volunteers from our partner organizations, including Gender Zed, Gender Stream, Insight, Cohort, remain in the country and, with the support of ECOM, continue to provide assistance to those who, for certain reasons, cannot or do not want to leave the country, while GenderDoc-M in Moldova and Hatter in Hungary support refugees in all aspects in the process of obtaining temporary asylum and adaptation in the country.
According to the studies available to us, more than 70% of Ukrainians have recently felt stressed or extremely irritated, and the main reason for this is the full-scale war. And although no additional research has been conducted, it is obvious that LGBT people are in a more vulnerable position, therefore, in each of our projects, the provision of qualified psychological support is a separate important aspect of work.
"All my life until 2022, I had lived in the Donetsk region in a rather homophobic environment. After the active hostilities started, the existing problems accumulated and multiplied – I had to go through the experience of being a refugee and feeling constant fear for relatives and friends. In addition, I found myself in a rather difficult situation surrounded by authoritarian relatives. At the moment I asked for help, I didn't feel the strength to change the situation, nor the desire to maintain any friendly relations with the people around me, let alone find a partner. Now I have entered a university, moved out from relatives, and started a long-distance relationship. Systematic work with a psychologist over the course of several months has significantly changed the quality of my life and I still continue to receive qualified support. I am immensely grateful to ECOM for this opportunity," says Igor (name changed). He had sessions with a psychologist in one of the shelters in Ukraine supported by ECOM.
Thanks to the chatbot that helps LGBT Ukrainians, we have managed to process more than two thousand targeted requests from LGBT+ Ukrainians over the past year. In particular, chatbot consultants provided more than 700 informational consultations, at least 600 psychological consultations and the same number of peer-to-peer consultations. In addition, more than three hundred people received qualified medical or legal advice.
"Hello. My name is Alina (name changed). I reached out to the specialists of the chatbot developed by ECOM for help. I have been working with the psychologist Yuri since mid-October. I really like working with him, and this help is very important to me. I'm afraid of what would happen if the chatbot stopped working, because in this difficult time, in addition to the war, all the problems associated with sexual orientation and my family's attitude towards this issue have aggravated. Without help, it'll be very difficult for me; besides, there are financial difficulties. You have no idea how important and necessary this program is! You are doing a good deed. I think that there are a lot of other grateful people. Thank you very much! So, if it's possible to continue the work of the chatbot, I, like many others, would be extremely grateful and happy. Thank you again!"
"Good afternoon. I want to thank the social worker Vladimir for pleasant and high-quality cooperation – and it's not the first time. He repeatedly sent me condoms and HIV tests, thanks to which many friends and acquaintances are protected in intimate relationships. I sincerely thank Vladimir and your organization in general for helping to curb the spread of HIV infection."
These and dozens of other letters motivate us to continue doing our best to advocate for and expand support for LGBT Ukrainians at all levels.
ECOM is grateful to all donors who supported our projects to help Ukraine. We express our special gratitude to our volunteers and employees who continue to work on the ground despite all the risks and circumstances.
We will continue to coordinate closely with our partners and colleagues and will stay close to each and every one who needs help in this difficult time.
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