It’s been many months since Russia invaded Ukraine, and the continuous war is exacting a terrible toll. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, more than 3,900 civilians and 258 children have been killed since the start of the invasion in late February.
The number of injured civilians and children is steadily rising. As of this writing, 4,500 civilians and 399 children have been injured in the war. Experts estimate between 25% to 33% are amputees, but the actual count could be higher.
Humanitarian aid workers say the war stops the limb-loss wounded from getting their needed help.
In an interview with KSTP News, Monte Schumacher, a US Army Special Forces veteran from Fargo, North Dakota, said that all prosthesis production stopped mainly in Ukraine, and they are relying on outside sources for help. Expensive materials needed to create higher-quality prosthetic limbs, such as titanium, cannot be found in Ukraine right now.
In the same interview, Jacob Gradinar, a prosthetist based in Minneapolis and office manager for the Minneapolis hub of prosthesis provider Limb Lab, said quality prosthetic limbs have been challenging to find even before the war in post-Soviet Union countries like Ukraine. Gradinar moved to the US from Ukraine in 2007.
He says the current waiting list for prosthetic limbs can last for months.
Humanitarian aid workers are doing their best to help amputees in Ukraine, especially children as young as eight who have lost limbs. According to Peter Nordquist, a humanitarian aid volunteer from Edina, Minnesota, these children have been living without a leg from the knee or above the knee. Nordquist has been working in Ukraine and Poland since early April. He hopes to help children recovering from limb-loss wounds.
Schumacher and Nordquist have initiated a crowdfunding campaign called Courage Ukraine. Both are also connecting with officials in cities like Lviv to find ways to solve the prosthetic limb shortage.
According to Nordquist, the officials approached them for help. The plan is to start small, raising enough funds to bring six to 10 children, accompanied by their parents or guardians, for treatment in the US. They could spend a month or more as they go through rehabilitation and get fitted for prosthetic limbs.
Besides bringing amputees to the US for treatment, Nordquist and Schumacher hope to eventually bring prosthetic experts and US-made parts to the Poland-Ukraine region.
Meanwhile, Gradinar has started a crowdfunding effort called Prosthetics for Ukrainians. He hopes to help Ukrainians with limb-loss injuries get treatment in the US, which would entail airfare, places to live during treatment, rehabilitation, and new prosthetic limbs.
All these efforts aim to help Ukrainian amputees return to the routine of life as soon as possible.
The three have joined forces and are currently discussing plans on how to help Ukrainians who have experienced limb loss.