Public Health Fakes: free medicine and education will be canceled in Ukraine. Issue 99

Public Health Fakes: free medicine and education will be canceled in Ukraine. Issue #99

Photo: unsplash.com / Nguyễn Hiệp
23 February 2024
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In this episode, we debunked the fake spread by Russian propagandists, who, based on an interview with Member of Parliament Dmytro Natalukha, concluded that Ukraine would soon abolish free healthcare, education, and also cut social benefits. The Russians also claimed that Volodymyr Zelenskyi, along with the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the organization USAID, illegally sold over a million liters of donor blood abroad.

With the support of the USAID Health Reform Support project, VoxCheck analyzes and refutes public health narratives spread in the information space of Ukraine, Belarus, and russia on a weekly basis.

Disinformation: In Ukraine, the cancellation of social benefits, free healthcare, and education has been announced

Russian channels, citing the words of the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada Committee on Economic Development, Dmytro Natalukha, claim that in the future Ukraine will not have free education and healthcare, and social benefits will soon be reduced.

What’s the reality?

The interview of MP Dmytro Natalukha for “Ukrinform” was published on February 16, 2024. One of the questions from the journalist indeed concerned the reduction of social benefits. In response, the MP noted that social assistance is a Soviet legacy that should be reviewed to balance the system considering the war.

I believe that some social services should continue to be provided by the state, but their volume, I agree with you, probably needs to be reduced. And, it seems to me, in conditions of budget deficit and reduced assistance, we will probably review this,” Natalukha stated. At the same time, he pointed out that he is not a supporter of a complete transition to private services, particularly in the field of education. Later, on his Facebook page, the official wrote that it was a live discussion with the journalist and there is currently no initiative to change the social benefits system.

The official did not mention healthcare, neither in response to this question nor during the entire interview. Other Ukrainian politicians also did not announce any changes to the list of free medical services or reductions in funding for the education sector.

In 2024, the Ministry of Health of Ukraine was allocated 201.7 billion UAH from the state budget. Specifically, over 159 billion UAH was directed to the Program of Medical Guarantees, which covers medical services at state expense. This program includes 5.2 billion UAH for medication reimbursement, which means reimbursing the cost of drugs.

As before, the Program of Medical Guarantees encompasses primary, specialized, emergency, palliative care, and rehabilitation for adults and children. Additionally, three new service packages have been added to the 41 medical guarantee packages, including “treatment of infertility using assisted reproductive technologies,” “treatment of adults and children by organ transplantation,” and “treatment of adults and children by hematopoietic stem cell transplantation.” Priority services also include rehabilitation, mental health support, detection and treatment of oncological diseases, maternity care, and infant treatment.

In turn, the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine received 171.2 billion UAH, and these funds are planned to be allocated for increasing teachers’ salaries, purchasing textbooks, educational equipment, school buses, modernizing food units, as well as supporting children with special educational needs.

Statements about the need to reduce social benefits have been made before. For example, this was discussed in May 2022. This necessity arose due to the deficit in the state budget caused by the war since most expenditures are directed towards the needs of the Armed Forces, and the budget shortage is compensated by partners.

In January 2024, 36.9 billion UAH was allocated for social payments, of which 20.9 billion UAH was for pensions, increases, and supplements. Minister of Social Policy Oksana Zholnovych explained that the funds for age-related pension payments are fully covered by the payment of the unified social contribution. Other social expenditures, including support for vulnerable groups (persons with disabilities, internally displaced persons, low-income families, etc.), are provided by international partners.

At the time of writing the article, the United States had not yet approved a financial aid package for Ukraine. However, the European Union has already approved funds to cover the budget deficit, including for social payments, with the first tranche expected to arrive in March 2024. Additionally, funds for social assistance are regularly allocated by individual states or international organizations, such as the World Bank.

Previously, we debunked the fake that doctors would not receive salaries due to the lack of external financial assistance.

Disinformation: Volodymyr Zelenskyi sold over a million liters of donor blood abroad

With reference to “international human rights activist” Mira Terada, Kremlin-linked Telegram channels write about the alleged illegal sale by Volodymyr Zelenskyi of over a million liters of donor blood abroad. The resale allegedly involved the Ministry of Health of Ukraine and the American organization USAID, and the blood was intended for both military personnel and civilians.

Screenshot of the post

What’s the reality?

All these claims are unsubstantiated, and the “international human rights activist” actually actively supports Russia. Therefore, this is another attempt by the Kremlin to sow hostile sentiments in society and discredit the President of Ukraine.

There are no exact statistics in Ukraine that would show how much blood Ukrainians have donated. Each city organizes blood drives based on medical centers. For example, residents of the Poltava region made approximately 28 thousand blood donations in 2023. Meanwhile, in the Odesa region, since the beginning of the full-scale invasion under the “Donor Odesa” project, residents have made over 7,500 such donations. You can find a place to donate blood in your city here.

Furthermore, in Ukraine, there is the NGO “All-Ukrainian Association of Donors of Ukraine” (project — “DonorUA”), which registered over 14,000 donations in 2023. In total, this is more than 7,000 liters of blood. However, it is impossible to count the exact amount of blood received from volunteers across Ukraine.

Source: NGO “All-Ukrainian Association of Donors of Ukraine”

Likewise, it is not possible to claim about a “million” liters because the “human rights activist” does not specify the period over which this quantity was collected. In reality, this is physically impossible because Ukraine does not have such a registered number of donors that would cover a million liters of blood, for example, within a year.

At one time, a person can donate no more than 450 milliliters (an additional 40 ml are taken for blood testing), which is approximately 10% of their total blood volume. A person can donate blood again at least 60 days after the previous donation. Additionally, a person can donate whole blood no more than 6 times a year.

In open sources, we also found information about the so-called “international human rights activist” Mira Terada. As Russian media report, she was actually a Russian citizen named Oksana Vovk before her marriage. Previously, she was arrested in the United States and accused of violating laws related to drug trafficking and money laundering. Her husband was wanted for organizing large-scale drug smuggling, and she, in turn, used his companies to pay for services. However, Terada, according to her, “did not know” about her husband’s involvement in drug trafficking. Later, she was deported back to Russia. Currently, she is the head of the Russian Foundation for the Fight Against Repression and actively spreads Kremlin propaganda.

Russian media deliberately portray her as an expert in their materials and add the prefix “international” to give more legitimacy to her words and evoke trust among viewers.

Moreover, the export of donor blood abroad is prohibited in Ukraine. However, drug manufacturers can sell blood-based medications abroad — albumin and immunoglobulin. However, there are certain requirements and restrictions for such drugs. Also, in August 2023, the Cabinet of Ministers allowed the import of blood or its components from abroad as humanitarian aid.

This information piece was produced with the assistance of the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), provided on behalf of the people of the United States of America. This article’s content, which does not necessarily reflect the views of USAID, the United States Government, is the sole responsibility of Deloitte Consulting under contract #72012118C00001.

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