Efforts are under way to get emergency contraception into Ukrainian hospitals as quickly as possible, as reports of rape after the Russian invasion continue to rise.
About 2,880 packets of the medication, also known as the morning-after pill, have been sent by International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) to Ukraine, while a network of volunteers across Europe has been collecting donations of the medication from abroad and delivering them to hospitals.
“The timeframe for treating victims of sexual violence is really essential,” said Julie Taft, of IPPF. “If a woman is seen within five days of an event, then that medication should automatically be given to her.”
Taft said the IPPF was also sending medical abortion pills, which can be used up to 24 weeks of pregnancy.
While emergency contraception was widely available in Ukraine, the war has destroyed local supply chains, caused a displacement of patients and healthcare providers, and increased the rate of sexual assaults.
“There is a demand for emergency contraception, but very rarely from hospitals in the west. It is mostly hospitals to the east, in Kharkiv, Mariupol, those regions,” said Joel Mitchell from Paracrew, a humanitarian aid organisation delivering food and medical equipment to Ukraine. “As soon as we made contact with hospitals in those regions, we had standing orders for that medication.”
It is not clear how many of the recipients of the medication are sexual assault victims, but a volunteer with Paracrew told the Guardian that he delivered emergency contraception directly to one hospital in a town north of Kyiv, where he says he was told by hospital staff a number of rape victims were being treated.
Ukraine’s human rights commissioner, Lyudmila Denisova, said in early April that there were nine official cases of women who were pregnant after being raped by Russian soldiers. The reports of rape victims raise concerns about areas in the east, which continue to be under Russian occupation.
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