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Through computerisation, UNHCR helps increase access to health services along the contact line in eastern Ukraine

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Ukraine
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UNHCR
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Origine
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"Last year we saw a fast development of electronic health services in Ukraine. Everything is computerized now, to the point that it became almost impossible to treat patients without a computer. The new electronic system is mandatory for document renewal, obtaining prescriptions, and making appointments to doctors." shares Doctor Oleh Suprun from Shchastia town while holding a brand-new computer still in its original packaging. "Now we are fully equipped to provide e-services to the local population."

In December 2021 and January 2022, UNHCR delivered 17 laptops to health centres in villages located in the 0- to 5-km zone along the contact line in eastern Ukraine.

Last year, the protection monitoring tool of UNHCR identified that the majority of front-line health care facilities -- first aid points (FAPs) and ambulatories -- had no computers to facilitate access to the e-health care system. The situation was aggravated by the fact that elders represent 60 to 80% of the population living in settlements close to the contact line. They often do not own a computer or lack the necessary IT skills. Similarly, younger low-income households are unable to access e-health care services as they cannot afford a computer nor an internet connection.

"Access to medical services is extremely important for protecting vulnerable people affected by the conflict. UNHCR therefore developed a project aiming to computerize local health care facilities in villages located very close to the contact line", explains Oleksandra Lytvynenko, Head of the UNHCR field unit in Sievierodonetsk.

Oleksandra Lytvynenko further explains that nowadays, many health services cannot be accessed without a computer. For example, doctors cannot record patients' health history, issue digital sick-leave certificates or register vulnerable patients for vaccination. In the same way, patients cannot make appointments with specialists outside their community. Thus, they must spend time and money traveling back and forth.

"When the presence of doctors with different specializations is limited in small settlements, telemedicine can provide a solution for specific needs", continues Oleksandra Lytvynenko. "We learned that some ambulatories were equipped with telemedicine systems but had no computer. The new computers will enable more effective work with the system. Moreover, computers will facilitate remote medical consultations in ambulances and FAPs that are not equipped with telemedicine systems."

"Now that we are fully equipped to provide e-services to the local population, we can double the speed of the overall process. It is much easier and faster to refer to specialized doctors. And our doctors do not need to be distracted from the patient anymore", says Doctor Oleh Suprun. "Basically, everyone can do it. Most of our health care employees are older and have some difficulties working with a computer. But they received online training and technical support is always available. One health centre can treat 40 people. In total we cover 25 000 people in our area of responsibility."

Computerization is one way for UNHCR to support people in accessing essential services, like health care in isolated settlements close to the contact line. It enables people to remain in their home without feeling compelled to move in order to access basic services and protection.

In 2020, responding to the COVID-19 pandemic, UNHCR and partners provided resources to frontline medical facilities. In 20 remote and isolated settlements in Luhansk oblast, medical facilities received medical training, disposable bedsheets, cleaning sets and detergents to better tackle the pandemic.

UNHCR is very grateful to its donors for their support in strengthening the capacity of the local health facilities in Luhansk region, and in particular to Estonia, whose funding enabled this project.

This article was edited by Sarah Vallee. Find volunteering opportunities at https://www.onlinevolunteering.org/en