The loud cries of little Veronica echo through the corridors of the Pokrovsk maternity hospital in eastern Ukraine.
Babies weighing 1.5 kilograms (3 pounds, 4 ounces) are born nearly two months old, receive oxygen through nasal tubes to help them breathe, and are treated for jaundice with ultraviolet lamps in incubators.
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Dr. Tetiana Myroshnychenko carefully connects the tubes so that Veronica can feed on her mother’s stored breast milk to quench her hunger.
before the Russian invasion Ukraine In late February, three hospitals in the government-controlled area of the country’s war-torn Donetsk region had facilities to treat premature babies. One was hit by Russian airstrikes and the other had to close as a result of the fighting. Only the maternity hospital in the mining town of Pokrovsk is still operating today.
Myroshnychenko, the only remaining neonatal specialist on site, currently lives at the hospital. Her three-year-old son splits the week between staying at the facility and her father, a miner, staying at home.
of doctor Even with the sound of air raid sirens, babies in the above-ground incubation wards of hospitals cannot be separated from life-saving machines.
“If you were to take Veronica to the shelter, it would take you five minutes.
Hospital officials say the rate of premature or complicated births has nearly doubled this year compared to previous years, attributed to stress and a rapidly declining standard of living. pregnant woman still in the area.
Russian- and Moscow-backed separatists now occupy just over half of the Donetsk region, which is roughly the size of Sicily and Massachusetts. Pokrovsk remains in a Ukrainian government-controlled area 60 kilometers (40 miles) west of the front lines.
Within the hospital’s maternity ward, talk of war is discouraged.
“Of course, everything that happens outside this building concerns us, but we are not talking about it,” Milosnichenko said. “Their main concern now is the baby.”
Fighting in the Dontesque region began in 2014, RussiaBacked separatists began to fight the government and took over parts of the area, but new mothers spent longer in hospitals because they had little chance of receiving care after being discharged.
Among them is 23-year-old Inna Kyslychenko from Pokrovsk. While rocking her two-day-old daughter Yesenia, she was considering joining a mass evacuation to a safer part of western Ukraine upon her discharge from the hospital. In government-owned areas of Donetsk, many vital services such as heating, electricity and water have been damaged by Russian bombing, and living conditions are expected to worsen as winter approaches.
“I am worried not only for us, but for all children, the little lives of the whole of Ukraine,” Kislichenko said.
More than 12 million people in Ukraine have been forced from their homes by the war, according to the United Nations relief agency. About half were displaced within Ukraine, while the rest moved to other European countries.
But moving the maternity hospital from Pokrovsk is not an option.
“Patients will have to stay here even if the hospital moves,” said the attending physician, Dr. Ivan Tzyganok.
“Birth of a baby is not something that can be canceled or rescheduled,” he pointed out.
The nearest existing maternity facility is Ukrainian From the nearby Dnipropetrovsk region, it’s a three-and-a-half-hour drive on a secondary road, but the journey is considered too dangerous for women in the third trimester of pregnancy.
Last week, Andrii Dobrelia, 24, and his wife, Maryna, 27, arrived at the hospital from a nearby village. After a series of tests, the doctors escorted Maryna to the caesarean operating room, they looked uneasy and said little. Tsyganok and his colleagues hurriedly dressed and prepared for the operation.
Twenty minutes later, I heard the crying of a newborn boy, Timur. After examination, Timur was taken to meet his father in the room next to him.
Andriy Dobrelia was afraid to breathe, kissed Temur’s head softly and whispered. Tears welled up in Andriy’s eyes as the newborn baby settled on his father’s chest.
With the war reaching six months, Tsyganok and his colleagues say they have more hopeful reasons to stay in the war.
“These children we are sending out into the world will be the future of Ukraine,” says Tsyganok. “I think their lives are different from ours. They will live outside of war.”
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