In Ukraine, Europe’s second poorest country by GDP, an estimated 160,000 people have been trafficked out of the country since 1991. That averages out to 64,000 per year. People are enticed by job offers abroad but end up being exploited instead.
“Ukrainians have traditionally used migration as a survival strategy. You can make more as a nanny or a construction worker in Russia than as a teacher or doctor in Ukraine.”
A team of 19 doctors and specialists at a secret hospital have treated over 2,000 survivors who have managed to return to Ukraine after being exploited abroad.
- Most of their patients have been victims of labour trafficking, like forced begging, domestic servitude, and sorting products in warehouses
- Health issues include gastric and intestinal diseases from malnourishment, sexually transmitted diseases, and psychiatric problems like post-traumatic stress disorder
- Not only does the hospital treat their trauma, but also helps them get on their feet with new life skills so they will be less vulnerable to further exploitation
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- We often think of STD’s when it comes to health issues faced by trafficking victims, overlooking other common effects like bone fractures, malnutrition, and psychological trauma. Sadly, injuries and chronic pain are the constant companions of many survivors who are trying to rebuild their lives.
- For most of us, the thought of returning home after being exploited would bring relief, but for many trafficking victims, going back is at best bittersweet and at worst terrifying. Traffickers likely know where their family lives, and sometimes it was their family members themselves who deceived them. A victim’s return can easily place them at risk for re-trafficking.
- Rehabilitation, safe housing, skills training, and healthy community is what provides survivors with security and opportunity, and this little hospital in Ukraine is certainly doing its part.