The war in Ukraine is catastrophic for the Ukrainian people, and also directly impacts people in neighboring countries. According to United Nations estimates, more than 13.3 million people have already been displaced abroad (30/09/2022), and more than 7 million people are internally displaced in Ukraine.
This is a humanitarian catastrophe. Many refugees have had to leave everything behind, including their loved ones. They need safe shelter, food, hygiene products and the ability to communicate, as well as access to education and work in the medium term.
Helvetas helps refugees in Ukraine and in the southern neighboring country of Moldova, one of the poorest countries in Europe, with what they need most at the moment. We also support local families who take in refugees and restaurants that offer meals to displaced people.
Ukraine: Emergency shelter, drinking water, home repair, food and cash aid
Helvetas is working to expand emergency shelters. Many internally displaced persons – Ukrainians who had to flee because of the war and are now living in another place in their home country – were housed in school buildings, among other places, but these are now being used for classes. The priority now is finding emergency housing as quickly as possible for the displaced people to live. Helvetas is helping local authorities develop suitable buildings, find the necessary equipment and set up the infrastructure (e.g., heating systems).
Since mid-June 2022, Helvetas has also been helping – together with the Swiss organization SKAT – to provide people in western Ukraine with drinking water. In Ivano-Frankivsk, 25,000 people affected by the war, including 5,000 internally displaced persons, are receiving sufficient water thanks to an additional borehole. We have also installed showers and washing facilities in emergency shelters for those in need. Helvetas intends to support even more people in Ukraine with better water supplies in the future.
The Ukrainian agricultural and food industry has also been affected by the war – including the organic sector, which Helvetas supported even before the war. Although large areas of organic farmland has been lost to fighting or occupation and mines, many organic farmers have been able to sow crops and deliver stored organic produce to internally displaced people. Helvetas continues to support Ukrainian organic farmers so that they do not lose their livelihoods and the people of Ukraine continue to have access to healthy, nutritious and sustainably grown food.
At the beginning of the war, Helvetas – with the support of Swiss Solidarity and together with Alliance 2015, a network of European NGOs – provided displaced people in Ukraine with meals, mattresses and hygiene items, as well as cash credits and vouchers so they could buy basic necessities. We also provided financial support to local restaurants, canteens and self-help groups so that they could offer free or low-cost meals to internally displaced persons
Moldova: Helvetas helps in the neighboring country
The small country of Moldova has taken in the most refugees in proportion to its population. It is expected that the number of arrivals in Moldova will continue to increase due to the Russian military advance.
Over 630,000 (as of 30/09/2022) people have already fled across the Moldova-Ukraine border since the outbreak of the war. There is a shortage of almost everything.
- Together with our French partner organization ACTED, we provide buses with drivers to transport refugees – especially women and children – from border posts to the capital Chisinau or to one of the reception centers.
- We provide essentials to particularly needy and vulnerable people (the elderly, people with disabilities and women with small children) in rest areas – thanks to the support of Swiss Solidarity.
- People fleeing the war receive SIM cards and Internet access so that they can communicate with their relatives or organize their onward journey. With Internet access, children can also take part in the virtual lessons offered by some Ukrainian schools.
- The pressure on the local population and the authorities is heavy – partly because the economy had already suffered before the war as a result of the pandemic. Most of the refugees from Ukraine are accommodated in private homes. Due to rising prices, the situation for host families who have taken in refugees is increasingly precarious. Helvetas, with support from Swiss Solidarity, provides financial assistance to families hosting refugees in Moldova, who themselves live on a low income or are particularly vulnerable (for example, households headed by women or those with physically and/or mentally impaired members).
- Helvetas is one of the few international organizations that have been present in Moldova for an extended period of time. We intend to move from emergency aid to medium-term stabilization measures as quickly as possible. Among other things, we plan to help integrate particularly vulnerable refugees into the local labor market.