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In 1995, the World Health Organization declared the tuberculosis epidemic in Ukraine. Over the past 16 years, the situation has deteriorated even further. Each day TB takes lives of 30 people, annually – of about 10,000 people.
In December 2010, I went to Donbass region in Ukraine. I was greatly influenced by what I saw on the first day. One of the first patients I photographed was suffering from gastrointestinal tuberculosis. He was lying naked on a hospital bed and staring at the ceiling. A week later, I was with him in the last hours of his life. He could not move or talk, his body was like a skeleton covered with skin. He clutched a cross to his chest and prayed. Afterwards I met his wife and she told me how he had walked around the house with a torn stomach and intestines dragging across the floor, because the ambulance had refused to transfer him to a hospital. They had to call a taxi.
After a while, I realized that this was happening all over the country and that the epidemic of tuberculosis became one of the national problems. Many prisons release pardoned convicts with serious health conditions, so as not to ruin their mortality figures. Two-thirds of former prisoners dissolve among general population without medical supervision. Hospitals are in a terrible condition and all phthisiology rests with doctors who are long overdue to retire. Patients with drug-resistant TB have to use public transport to receive medical supplies and food and those without money just die in their beds. In the midst of current political wars in Ukraine, everybody is just indifferent to the problem of tuberculosis.
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