Traversing the streets we see yellow pipes elevated about ten feet off the ground. Digging is happening below, indicating the long-awaited arrival of natural gas. The yellow pipes become a status symbol because not everyone can afford to connect - it is very expensive and it's mainly the elderly population that will continue to heat with coal. The gap between haves and have-nots widens.
If I were ill, how would I fare with medical care? A recent example: A resident in a small nursing home, partially funded by our organization, had a stroke. The ambulance was called. First question - "How old is this woman?" When told she was 71, they refused to come saying, "She is old, she will die anyway" - apparently the standard response for anyone over 65. Fortunately a Christian doctor advocated on her behalf and she was admitted the next day. FOMCU (Friends of the Mennonite Centre Ukraine) has renovated a Respite Room at the hospital which is warm, bright and comfortable; meals are brought in. Another woman was admitted to the Respite Room about the same time. She was brought in from one of the outlying villages and obviously hadn't bathed for a very long time; the odor was overwhelming. The Molochansk hospital was built 22 years ago and hasn't had hot running water for 21 years. What to do without warm water? We hope to address this issue shortly. The state provides doctor's salaries, but nothing beyond that. Any renovations at the hospital are funded by staff. We are told that people unable to pay for their needed medication, will also not be admitted to hospital, so many people suffer and die at home. FOMCU has medical emergency funds in 8 districts to aid in these and other medical situations. In addition we pay two doctors to hold weekly clinics at the Centre, so that people can come for free consultations.
Even so, death comes prematurely to many. One
week after Easter is another Orthodox celebration, commemorating the dead. We notice volumes of bright plastic flowers appearing at every storefront. Families visit the cemetery bringing these flowers to adorn gravesites of their loved ones. People crowd in with food and drink; vodka flows freely. We are told that many deaths are tragically alcohol related. This problem is huge, related largely to unemployment. With the coming of natural gas, it is hoped that an increase in industrial activity might aid in alleviating this situation.