Mykola Nadulichnyi, the founder of the NGO Luhansk Association of Organizations of People with Disabilities, was already a committed advocate for inclusivity in Ukraine society when war came to his country.
In February, with the armed attacks escalating, Mykola and many of his colleagues abandoned their homes in Sievierodonetsk, in the eastern Luhansk Oblast, and made the 1,300-kilometer trek to the western city of Lviv, close to the Polish border.
“We stopped in Lviv district and understood we could not sit on our hands, that people in the east were starving”, says Mykola. “They needed support. So, we decided to shift to humanitarian help.”
“Every day we send trucks of food and essential materials people need,” Mykola said. “In the past three weeks, our association delivered 60 tonnes of humanitarian assistance to Kharkiv, Sievierodonetsk and Kramatorsk – much of it done with UNDP support in partnership with the European Union.”
Promoting inclusivity, protecting the rights of the most vulnerable, and helping them create opportunities for themselves has been a cornerstone of UNDP’s work in Ukraine for the past 30 years.
It is from this commitment to inclusivity and leveraging the strengths of civil society organizations, that the partnership with Mykola was born.
Mykola and the Association first began working with UNDP in 2019 when he advised the agency on how to make its own Sievierodonetsk facilities accessible for people with disabilities. During that time, UNDP taught Mykola and his colleagues the skills needed to write grant proposals and successfully advocate on behalf of those with disabilities. Paying that forward has been an important mission for the Association members as they, in turn, teach other organizations the skills learned from UNDP to better serve Ukraine’s estimated 2.7 million people with disabilities
The Association’s involvement with UNDP expanded when the Association was engaged to develop a regional programme with local authorities. Turbota’s (Care) purpose was to improve quality and accessibility of social services to vulnerable groups, including assessment and recommendations for improved access at public facilities. The Association’s network of civil society organizations, including 27 advisors (of whom 23 are women), works to implement recommendations, such as improving accessibility at police stations, banks, pharmacies, schools, kindergartens, and social service providers.
More recently, when the government introduced movement restrictions in response to COVID-19, the NGO implemented a project for food delivery to the elderly and people with disabilities during the pandemic. They created a call centre and delivery service, connecting businesses and pharmacies to the residents of communities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts. UNDP’s grant covered the delivery expenses, while businesses and pharmacies offered discounts for purchases under the project.
Mykola also serves as an advisor on inclusion to the Head of Luhansk Oblast State Administration, advocating for accessible legal services and social protection for vulnerable groups.
His current concerns do not stop with transporting relief to the east. He also is taking action to protect the well-being of those made vulnerable in fleeing from the violence. He is reaching out to and engaging with some of the displaced families from the east who are seeking shelter and support. Mykola and his association are mostly focused on helping those with disabilities and the elderly, in line with their original mission of ensuring inclusivity – even in war.
As the operational backbone of the UN’s coordinated response, UNDP works closely with partners, such as Mykola’s association, to support crisis coordination and emergency response management, also offering operational entry points and platforms to development and humanitarian partners to channel and scale support to the Government and people of Ukraine.
While Mykola is fully engaged with the country’s current relief efforts and the welfare of the vulnerable, he ultimately aspires to a larger role in Ukraine’s effort to rebuild when there is a ceasefire agreement.
“I would like to continue my work in protecting the most vulnerable and those with disabilities,” he said. “And something tells me there will be many more when the bombs stop dropping and the dust clears.”