This month, UCP Wheels for Humanity brought much needed training and support to Ukraine, where ongoing conflict in the Eastern part of the country has resulted in an estimated 14,000 people injured and tens of thousands more who have been displaced from their homes. Given the current situation, there are even more people in need of wheelchairs and physical rehabilitation, and the UCP Wheels team was there to support our partners and the country we have been working in for more than 15 years.
The UCP Wheels team, with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development and Management Sciences for Health, held a two-day training at the Military Hospital in Lviv, Western Ukraine to teach the hospital staff and others from surrounding hospitals and health centers about bladder and bowel management techniques for people with spinal cord injuries. For many soldiers and civilians injured in the conflict, as well as thousands more living with spinal cord injuries, being able to control bladder and bowel activity is integral to independence and health.
Bladder infection is one of the leading causes of death for people with spinal cord injuries, and the course focused on teaching neurologists, urologists, physical therapists and nurses how to use and teach others to use intermittent catheters, which pose a lower risk of infection than indwelling catheters or diapers. By the end of the training, five of the soldiers who were going through rehabilitation at the hospital had already learned how to use and clean their catheters, meaning they will no longer rely on nurses or family members to empty their bladders — making a huge impact on their self-confidence and independence.
Following the training, UCP Wheels traveled to the capital of Ukraine, Kyiv, to hold a World Health Organization wheelchair service training and 1-day conference on the topic of wheelchair service provision. The wheelchair training included 16 people from throughout Ukraine, including four wheelchair users, and taught them the principles of physical assessment, prescription and adaptation of wheelchairs. This was the first of what will hopefully be a series of wheelchair trainings, and the participants were individuals who have shown an interest and aptitude in teaching others throughout their country to ensure a ripple effect.
A 1-day conference was held concurrently with the training to encourage the Ukrainian government to create higher standards for wheelchair provision in accordance with the WHO Guidelines on manual wheelchair provision. The event, which was organized by UCP Wheels and the National Assembly for Ukrainians with Disabilities, with funding from USAID, was attended by more than 80 key stakeholders, and included opening remarks from the Ukrainian President’s Commissioner for the Rights of People with Disabilities Valeriy Sushkevych, Deputy Minister of Social Policy Vasylii Shevchenko, the US Embassy’s Deputy Chief of Mission George Kent, and Dr Nataliya Korol from the World Health Organization, as well as UCP Wheels Director of Programs Katherine Selengia and Clinical Coordinator Dave Calver.
The conference included representatives from disability and rehabilitation groups from throughout the country and offered an open forum to identify gaps in services and to brainstorm ways to improve wheelchair service in the country. UCP Wheels plans to be back for trainings and additional policy-related advocacy activities over the next few months, so watch this space!
And for those who would like to support the people of Ukraine, specifically those with disabilities, please consider making a donation to UCP Wheels’ Ukraine program. Just click here or go to www.ucpwheels.org and click on “donate.” Use the “designate this gift for a specific purpose” field at the bottom of the donation form to specify that you would like your donation to be used for our Ukraine program. Thank you!