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Maternal and Child Health of Internally Displaced Persons in Ukraine: A Qualitative Study

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Svitlana Nidzvetska , Jose M. Rodriguez-Llanes , Isabelle Aujoulat, Julita Gil Cuesta ,Hannah Tappis, Joris A. F. van Loenhout and Debarati Guha-Sapir

Abstract: Due to the conflict that started in spring 2014 in Eastern Ukraine, a total of 1.75 million internally displaced persons (IDPs) fled the area and have been registered in government-controlled areas of the country. This paper explores perceived health, barriers to access to healthcare, caring practices, food security, and overall financial situation of mothers and young children displaced by the conflict in Ukraine. This is a qualitative study, which collected data through semi-structured in-depth interviews with nine IDP mothers via Skype and Viber with a convenience sample of participants selected through snowball technique. Contrary to the expectations, the perceived physical health of mothers and their children was found not to be affected by conflict and displacement, while psychological distress was often reported. A weak healthcare system, Ukraine’s proneness to informal payments, and heavy bureaucracy to register as an IDP were reported in our study. A precarious social safety net to IDP mothers in Ukraine, poor dietary diversity, and a generalized rupture of vaccine stocks, with halted or delayed vaccinations in children were identified. Increasing social allowances and their timely delivery to IDP mothers might be the most efficient policy measure to improve health and nutrition security. Reestablishment and sustainability of vaccine stocks in Ukraine is urgent to avoid the risks of a public health crisis. Offering psychological support for IDP mothers is recommended.

Keywords: Ukraine; maternal health; child health; reproductive health; mental health; IDPs; conflict; crisis; humanitarian response