Your compassion saves lives.
“People are being pushed to their limit – their lives are changing by the hour. It is critical that we are there for them quickly.”
—James McDowell, Head of Global Emergency Response Team
Every single day, families in Ukraine are fleeing their homes. Many travel for days, heading to neighbouring countries where they hope their families will be safe from violence. They arrive at borders exhausted and stressed – often with little more than the clothes they are wearing.
Local organisations and volunteers are doing what they can to support refugees from Ukraine, but they are overwhelmed as the fighting intensifies. We are on the ground providing urgent support to displaced families and the communities that host them.
For more than 30 years we have been responding to conflict-driven emergencies just like this one. Our Global Emergency Response Team is taking action. Will you join us?
Things you should know
We talk about a humanitarian crisis, what's the curent state of things?
So far 3.3 million have now fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries; of those, 2 million have fled to Poland. 6.5 million people have been internally displaced since the start of the conflict escalation. The movement of people from east to west across Ukraine continues; local capacitates are overwhelmed.
Many of the people who are displaced or transiting into neighbouring countries are seeking shelter in crowded spaces with limited sanitation facilities and access to health services. Most of the refugees arriving the Ukraine-Poland border and internally displaced persons within Ukraine, are women, children and elderly people. Some of the displaced children are unaccompanied. People fleeing Ukraine are at risk for human trafficking and exploitation. Across Ukraine damaged infrastructure continues to impact the availability of safe drinking water, fuel, and electricity to conflict-affected families. Supply chains are severely disrupted, and some stockpiles are inaccessible due to ongoing armed clashes and medical supplies are running low.
What is Medair doing on the ground?
We have dispatched a team to Poland and have been launching a response at the Ukrainian border. We are supporting a refugee reception centre in Przmesyl, located near the Medyka border crossing, which sees up to 10,000 people per day. We have also established contacts to several cities in Ukraine. The aim is to ensure coordination and strengthen existing initiatives.
- In Poland, Practical support for volunteer initiatives includes providing food for chefs preparing hot meals, supplying fuel for gas heaters at outdoor reception centres
- Medair is partnering with a local NGO to manage a large reception centre in a former supermarket. Here people are receiving practical assistance with SIM cards, information on housing and transport, and immediate shelter. In seven other volunteer-run reception centres along the Poland/Ukraine border, we are providing support with emergency supplies as needed.
- People fleeing Ukraine are at risk for human trafficking and exploitation. Medair is training volunteers in providing psychological first aid and working to ensure that translators are available.
- Cities in western Ukraine are swelling with people fleeing the conflict areas. At the same time, supply chains into the country are non-functioning and supplies of critical items are dwindling.
- Medair has established field operations in six crucial cities, and currently have recruited 25 local staff.
- Along with identifying needs for critical relief items, Ukraine teams are conducting assessments of civil infrastructures including hospitals and water systems.
- Where local markets are functioning, the preferred option for delivering assistance will be through cash distributions.
Medair is starting psychosocial support activities in Vinnytsia (Ukraine). Training in Psychological First Aid is being provided to staff, and Psychosocial Project Managers are currently being recruited.
How does emergency relief currently look like?
Working with local partners is key to this response – the local communities have been the true first responders and our role is to stabilize, sustain and standardize the services being offered to refugees. The need to support and stabilize volunteer initiatives in the reception centres is immense. The enormous volunteer effort in Poland and the constantly changing situation inside Ukraine means that coordination takes time. We have a great reputation among local partners, municipal administrations. We have earned this reputation by liaising with these partners and bringing in our sector experts to advise on the best way to respond.
What other options are there?
Life-saving goods are urgently needed, but it is logistics which bring these to the needy. Just as important as the fund-raising is the supply chain behind the scenes. When every second counts, the responders need to know what to do, and how to do it right. Professional humanitarian organizations have standard operating procedures, decision rules, and trained people who can deploy quickly. It’s better to donate cash rather than send individual packages to the scene. It is through professional logistics management that donations work to save more lives.
How can be helped from the distance?
The best now is to support emergency relief organizations, who know what is needed and have the necessary experience to respond, including technical and logistic aspects. These organizations assess the needs and respond accordingly. What is really needed now is health assistance. Medair has 30 years of experience in responding to humanitarian crisis for people affected by conflict and natural disasters. We know what is needed when people have lost everything.
What do people need first?
People arriving at the border need practical support such as with food, shelter and medical services. But the trauma they have experienced must not be forgotten. People were forced to flee their homes, separated from loved ones, and had long and dangerous journeys. This has a huge impact on people’s mental health. The main health need expressed by incoming Ukrainians was assistance with stress. In Poland, Medair will therefore provide Psychological First Aid training to community volunteers working in refugee reception centres. In Ukraine, Medair will provide online staff care to mental health professionals and provide remote capacity building training sessions on the provision of trauma-sensitive support.
How are the people feeling? Do they have a perspective for the future?
It’s hard to talk about future prospective. Nobody can predict how long the conflict will be going on. Many are hoping to be able to return to their homes, but nobody can say how long this conflict will take. We are there to make sure that people get what they need right now and to make sure that the support is sustainable on the long run.
Medair is working in some of the hardest hit countries around the world and it is important to bear in mind that there are also other crisis. UN International Fund for Agriculture Development (IFAD) reports that food prices and shortages of staple crops are already been felt in the Middle East and North Africa (including the Horn of Africa). Quarter of wheat exports come from Russia and Ukraine, with 40 percent of wheat and corn from Ukraine being exported to the Middle East and Africa.
Report specifically sites Lebanon: “22 percent of families in Lebanon are food insecure and food shortages or further price hikes will exacerbate an already desperate situation. The country imports up to 80 percent of its wheat from Russia and Ukraine, but can only store about one month’s worth of the crop at a time due to the blast in Beirut’s port in 2020 that destroyed the country’s major grain silos”.
Photo copyrights: © AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda and © AP Photo/Emilio Morenatti