How Ukrainian civil society has responded to the humanitarian crisis wrought by Russia’s invasion.
Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine has created a magnitude of human suffering that no one was prepared for. With at least five million Ukrainians having fled to neighbouring European countries and another seven million who sought refuge elsewhere in Ukraine after being uprooted by Russia’s attacks, the scale of the displacement in massive.
Ukrainian civil society reacted on day one of the war, mobilising volunteers, food, clothes, medicine and other necessities, and preparing shelters for the throngs of civilians from across the country fleeing Russian attacks.
A hub for civil society in the central Ukrainian Kirovohrad Oblast since 2008, Territory of Success began helping internally displaced persons (IDPs) who had fled to central Ukraine by providing food, blankets, pillows and other necessities. Since schools had immediately closed due to the crisis, local authorities allowed the NGO to repurpose a school building as a humanitarian centre and distribution point for humanitarian aid.
As spokesperson Olena Horobets explains, in the first days of the war there was a complete collapse in supply chains, leaving supermarket and pharmacy shelves empty of even the most basic goods. NGO staff with little experience in logistics on such a scale had to quickly learn how to work with wholesale suppliers, manufacturers and a complicated array of international donors in order to meet the needs of the people arriving to their region in their thousands each day from cities and towns under attack by Russian forces.
“About 1,000 visitors pass through our centre each day”, said Olena. “Each one has their own personal story of tragedy”.
Despite the challenges, in the first month of the war Territory of Success helped thousands of people at their centre, as well as distributed more than 2,500 meals and nearly 1,500 hygiene kits. They have grown to 100 volunteers and are opening a second centre May 9.
Based in the Western Ukrainian city of Ivano-Frankivsk, D.O.M.4824 have been providing integration services and other assistance to IDPs since Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea and backing of separatists in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk forced hundreds of thousands from their homes. They opened a shelter on February 24th that can accommodate 60 people. Volunteers organise fun activities for children living in the shelter and networking events for the adults to help them make connections in the local community, find jobs and access other services. They also distribute aid to other cities, and have so far delivered 9.5 tons of clothes and household items to more than 500 families, as well as provided 400 mattresses to shelters around the country.
“On the one hand, you are always busy, always doing something. But on the other hand, the need is so big, it can feel like a drop in the ocean”, said D.O.M.48.24 spokesperson Natalia Vyshnevetskaya.
Also based in Ivano-Frankivsk, the Youth organisation STAN has opened 7 shelter facilities accommodating up to 480 people per night. They also bring food, clothes and other essentials to the railway stations where new arrivals from cities under attack by Russian forces are in need. In the first month of the war, they distributed aid to 30,000 people at the railway stations alone. STAN also organise delivery of humanitarian aid to parts of the country under Russian occupation and collaborate with artists on projects to tell the stories of people who, by choice or necessity, decided to stay in besieged and occupied cities.
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