TB Epidemic in Ukraine
I started to investigate the problem of tuberculoses in Ukraine in December 2010. For that moment I knew nothing about it and had the same stereotypes as another people. The first region I went was Donbas, Eastern Ukraine, and was greatly influenced by what I saw. One of the first patients I photographed was suffering from gastrointestinal tuberculosis. He was lying naked on a hospital bed and staring at the ceiling. A week later, I was with him in the last hours of his life. He couldn’t move or talk, his body was like a skeleton covered with skin. He clutched a cross to his chest and prayed. Afterwards I met his wife and she told me how he walked around the house with a torn stomach and intestines dragging across the floor, and because the ambulance refused to transfer him to a hospital, they had to call a taxi.
At the time of the shooting, 2010-2012, Ukraine had the highest burden of tuberculosis in the European Region, second only to Russia. Only 50 percents of TB patients were recovered. Each year 40000 of TB patients were registered officially for the first time, 10000 of them died. Every hour 4 cases of tuberculosis were recorded and each hour one of such patients died. Hospitals were in terrible conditions. Medicine equipment either out of date, either was absent at all. Government did nothing to stop the problem, even if there was some help it was from volunteer organizations. Patients with drug-resistant tuberculosis had to use public transport to get medications and food. Those who had no money, just died in their beds. People don’t guess that modern Auschwitz is nearby them. While politicians are playing politics, people are dying of tuberculosis in hospitals without drugs, adequate nutrition and proper care. The epidemic of TB became one of the national problems.
Prisons of the country are the hotbed of TB in Ukraine. The incidence of the TB in them is about 50 times higher than among the civilian population, and the mortality rate is 30 times higher. Many prisons, not to ruin their mortality figures, release pardoned convicts with serious health conditions. Ex-convicts dissolve among general population without medical supervision.
Children’s TB is a very big problem: over the past decade, the number of deceased children increased 3 times. It has become a norm, that young children are infected with the persistent forms of TB. The disease is being progressing not only because of a lack of attention to this issue by the state, but also of the indifference of parents. Many of them believe that their child is fully protected, and vaccination can only hurt him. Every year, on the health check, about 200 000 juveniles suffering from a latent form of TB are being revealed.
Nowadays there is a huge danger of TB expansion. Because of the war on the East of Ukraine and annexation of the Crimea by Russia, increased the number of refuges from Crimea and Donbass, over 1,2 million of people. Thousands of tuberculosis patients on the East were left without treatment, many prisoners were released and taken to the separatists’, pro-Russian army. Because of the lack of medical treatment, medicines, devastation and poorness, the TB epidemic increases day by day in the East of Ukraine.