Valentina Petrovna, 58 years old, receives medicines for hypertension and heart issues at the MSF clinic in Mariupol city hospital.
UKRAINE 2018 © Yuna Cho/MSF
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This information is excerpted from MSF’s 2016 International Activity Report.

As the conflict in eastern Ukraine continued, those living on the front lines bore the brunt of the violence. Throughout 2016, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) ran mobile clinics and increased psychological and medical support to people living in the areas controlled by the Ukrainian government, including those displaced by conflict.

MSF psychologists worked in 26 locations in the southern part of the conflict zone, providing 3,052 consultations for patients with acute or chronic stress. Many had lost relatives or friends in the conflict or had fled because their homes were damaged or destroyed. MSF held group sessions for the elderly and ensured treatment for people suffering from chronic diseases such as diabetes and hypertension. In 2016, MSF conducted a total of 27,835 outpatient consultations. 

MSF teams worked in 40 locations in and around Bakhmut and assisted more than 40,000 residents and 10,000 displaced people. In July, when the capacity of the local health system had improved, MSF withdrew from the area.

MSF also continued to support and treat prisoners with drug-resistant tuberculosis (DR-TB) in pre-detention centers in Mariupol and Bakhmut, and in the penal colony in Dnipro. 

UPDATE: March 19, 2015

Fighting in eastern Ukraine has reduced since the February 15 ceasefire, halting more than a month of escalating violence. Despite the ceasefire, however, some areas still experience shelling. Meanwhile, intense fighting continues over the front line town of  Debaltseve.

The conditions for civilians caught in the conflict zone are dire and the humanitarian situation continues to deteriorate. “We don’t have plans for the future,” says Alyona, a 24-year-old woman who fled Debaltseve with her husband and two-year-old son. Concerned about the impact the conflict was having on her son, Alyona sought assistance from an MSF psychologist. “It is difficult to have hope,” she says. “Everybody has been affected, mentally or physically. People had everything, [and] now my child is homeless.”

For people on both sides of the front line, living conditions are precarious. Residents face a severe shortage of basic needs, such as food and medication. Many medical facilities have been damaged or destroyed by the fighting, while doctors struggle to treat their patients with dwindling supplies.

 “Medical workers have been under intense strain for months on end dealing with thousands of wounded and displaced people,” says Loïc Jaeger, deputy head of mission for MSF in Ukraine.

MSF is responding by expanding its operations in the region. Aside from supporting doctors and medical facilities close to the fighting, MSF medical teams are providing basic health care and medicines to people close to the fighting, mainly through mobile clinics.

MSF activities in Ukraine 2015
MSF activities in Ukraine 2015

Mobile clinics are now operating in 25 locations in and around the front line, including rural areas outside Donetsk and Luhansk cities, in heavily affected towns such as Uglegorsk and Debaltseve, and to displaced people staying in Svyatogorsk.

“We haven’t had a doctor in Uspenka for many months,” says Lydia, a 65 year-old living in the Donetsk region. “The previous doctor died before the conflict. So people had to go to Amvrosievka [approximately 14 miles away] if they needed to see a doctor. Now Dr Wael from MSF comes here and there are long queues to see him. I’m very grateful to MSF, they help people here a lot.”

MSF has also expanded its psychological support program, providing counseling to both individuals and groups affected by the violence in 30 locations.

As of March, more than one million people have been displaced by fighting in Ukraine, with over 600,000 seeking refuge in other countries. Many more have been trapped in front line towns, unable to escape due to heavy fighting. In Gorlovka, one of the hardest-hit cities on the front line, thousands of civilians were unable to flee the violence, with only one narrow and dangerous road leading out of the city.

SF-provided Supplies Since Start of Conflict
Wounded (supplies for treating X wounded patients) 17900
Chronic diseases (medicines for treating X patients) 14400
Primary health care (medicines for treating X patients) 13300
Maternity (supplies for X deliveries) 2000
Hygiene kits (no. of recipients) 5634
X-ray film 6400
Blankets 8507
Mobile clinic locations 25
Primary health consultations (mobile clinics) 1790
Individual counselling sessions 1144
Group counselling sessions 1874
Psychological training sessions 432
Drug resistant-TB facilities supported 5
Drug resistant-TB patients under treatment 170


Since January 13, when the most recent surge in violence began, directors of hospitals in Dontesk, Stakhanov, Pervomaisk, and Novoaidar—all supported by MSF—have reported a drastic increase in wounded patients admitted for care, putting increased pressure on overburdened and under-supplied hospitals.

“The intensification in fighting has only exacerbated the already acute shortage of essential medicines such as antibiotics, pain killers, and suture materials,” says Jaeger.

MSF has been relieving pressure on these and seven other hospitals on both sides of the front line by providing much-needed supplies. Since the beginning of the conflict, MSF has providing supplies and medicine to treat almost 18,000 wounded patients, 14,400 chronic diseases, and 2,000 childbirths.