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Pandemics in the Grey Zone: How Luhansk Region is Fighting COVID-19

Pandemics in the Grey Zone: How Luhansk Region is Fighting COVID-19

Evgeniy Maloletka
Pandemics in the Grey Zone: How Luhansk Region is Fighting COVID-19

The war with Russia in eastern Ukraine has entered its seventh year, and territories in the Donbas remain under occupation. The citizens of the area have been scarred by war, and they continue to endure trauma and misery in their lives. Photographer Evgeniy Maloletka has been documenting the coronavirus pandemic since March 2020, and traveled to Luhansk Region at Zaborona’s request to discover how the pandemic has touched this battle-scarred region of Ukraine.

The problems of a not-quite-reformed medical system and lack of medical personnel in hospitals across Luhansk Region are felt very acutely by its residents. Few doctors remain at an ambulance point in the city of Severodonetsk, some 110km northwest of the occupied city of Luhansk. Paramedics shoulder the burden.

Viktoria Koryak, a pediatrician, currently heads the coronavirus ward at a hospital in the town of Stanytsia Luhanska. She recently recovered from a serious bout of the virus herself, and looks back on those memories with terror. She’s reluctant to let us into the “red zone” of the ward. Koryak says that she’s more fearful of being at the hospital than of being shot at.

“You have a chance when you’re being shot. There’s no chance with the corona[virus].”

At the city hospital in Severodonetsk, Boris Shishin, the head of the infectious diseases department, admits that his department has already reached capacity, stuffed to the brim with COVID-19 patients. He’s forced to settle patients of a different diagnosis in the other wards and buildings of the hospital.

“The hospital has 640 beds. We can use all 640 to for COVID patients,” he explains. “But there will be no one to work there! We only have three infectious disease specialists. Three people cannot handle 600.”

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