A civil activist, who has tirelessly supported internally displaced persons (IDPs), especially children and families with disabilities affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014, has been named the 2020 Regional winner of the UN Refugee Agency’s Nansen Refugee Award in Europe.
For more than six years since the beginning of the conflict in the east of Ukraine, Mrs Tetiana Barantsova together with her team of Luhansk non-governmental organization “AMI-Skhid” has been helping the IDPs with disabilities to find shelter, food, financial and psychological support. The round-the-clock hotline they ran for persons affected by the conflict in Donbas has provided counselling to some 5000 people desperately looking for hand of help in times of heavy shelling or psychological crisis caused by the armed conflict. Along with assistance to the adults, Tetiana and her team organized online schooling for children with disabilities, helping to adjust the school programme to their specific needs.
As of August 2020, the Ukrainian government has registered more than 1.45 million people as affected by the conflict. Of these, more than 50 thousand people live with disabilities.
“I am extremely happy that the efforts of the human rights activist from Ukraine were recognized by the Nansen Refugee Award committee,” said Noel Calhoun, UNHCR Deputy Representative in Ukraine. “It is hard for all people to flee their homes and restart their lives. Persons with disabilities face even greater challenges: How do people flee a war zone in a wheelchair? How do they find new homes and jobs and schools? Such relocation was especially hard for people with disabilities due to their conditions. Tetiana has shown us how to make it possible. She is one of the heroes, whose energy, has demonstrated exemplary dedication and compassion have made it possible for thousands of persons with disabilities to find safety and rebuild their lives.”
Tetiana Barantsova is a well-known activist in Ukraine and a member of the National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities of Ukraine. In April 2020, Tetiana was appointed a government’s commissioner for the rights of people with disabilities.
”I am very happy that Tatiana’s efforts have been highly praised by the UN Refugee Agency because she really puts a lot of effort into helping people. Today, there are about 51.5 thousand people with disabilities who are critically in need of support, much more than the rest of the migrants, because they are people in wheelchairs who have cerebral palsy and other critical health problems. Unfortunately, funding for state support is still insufficient, and this situation is exacerbated by the fact that the war diverts a significant share of GDP from support for social programs. Together with Tetiana, we work to solve these difficult issues“, commented Valeriy Sushkevych, Presidential Commissioner for the Rights of Persons With Disabilities.
Tatiana Barantsova also informed about the deterioration of the situation of many IDPs living with disabilities due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“I am very touched and grateful for this award, and I believe that it not only recognizes my work, but also the courage of the people who face all the difficulties of conflict and displacement every day, and now the coronavirus. This is especially difficult for people with disabilities. We have found such methods of work that allow us to continue to communicate in digital format, to help them, to monitor their situation. For example, we look together at how online education can create difficulties for children with disabilities and how it can be improved. Unfortunately, there are children who live in very poor areas along the contact line, and many of them do not have a computer with a decent Internet for online learning. Sometimes there is only one cell phone in the family that can’t even upload videos or photos. Moreover, it is very difficult for such children to work in groups, they almost always need an individual approach. We held online meetings and invited doctors, teachers, and social workers to explain specific problems. We often worked around the clock. I think that my current work with the government and this award is a logical continuation of all the work we have done over the years,” said Tetiana Barantsova.
“I congratulate Tetiana Barantsova as a particularly worthy Regional Winner for Europe of the 2020 Nansen Refugee Award. I also thank the UNHCR for keeping the spotlight, through this award, on the continued armed conflict and human suffering in Eastern Ukraine,” said Erik Svedahl, Ambassador of Norway to Ukraine.
“Speaking of individuals that make a difference at the local level, today we honor a highly dedicated Ukrainian woman, a civil society representative, who despite all challenges, proactively stands up for the rights of the most vulnerable. Mrs. Barantsova, you deserve our deepest admiration and respect for what you and your NGO is doing,” said Claude Wild, Ambassador of the Swiss Confederation to Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova.
Video from the Award ceremony is available here [ENG]
Video about Tetiana Barantsova please watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cGuW8_O5ePk
About UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award:
UNHCR’s Nansen Refugee Award honours extraordinary service to the forcibly displaced and stateless persons.
The Nansen Refugee Award program is funded in partnership with the Swiss Government, The Norwegian Government, the State Council of the Republic and Canton of Geneva, the Administrative Council of the City of Geneva and the IKEA Foundation.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, leads international action to protect people forced to flee their homes because of conflict and persecution. We deliver life-saving assistance such as shelter, food and water, help safeguard fundamental human rights, and develop solutions that ensure people have a safe place to call home where they can build a better future. We also work to ensure that stateless people are granted a nationality.
For more information about UNHCR, visit https://www.unhcr.org/ua