The war in Ukraine is catastrophic for the Ukrainian people, and also directly impacts people in neighboring countries. According to United Nations estimates, nearly 12 million people have already been displaced abroad (09/06/2022), 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: clean drinking water, meals and cash aid
Helvetas, with the support of Swiss Solidarity and Alliance 2015 (a network of European NGOs), is helping displaced people in Ukraine. We have provided thousands of internally displaced people in western, central and eastern Ukraine with meals, mattresses and hygiene items, as well as cash credits and vouchers so that they can buy basic necessities. We provide financial support to local restaurants, canteens and self-help groups so that they can offer free or low-cost meals to internally displaced persons. In this way, we support the local economy at the same time.
Since mid-June 2022, Helvetas, together with the Swiss organization SKAT, has been helping people in western Ukraine manage their drinking water supply. In the Ivano-Frankivsk oblast, 25,000 people affected by the war — including 5,000 internally displaced persons — will receive sufficient water thanks to an additional borehole. In addition, showers and washing facilities are being installed in emergency shelters for those in need. Helvetas wants 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 has been supporting since before the war. Although large areas of organic farmland have been lost to fighting or occupation (mines), many organic farmers have started the sowing season and stored organic produce has been delivered to internally displaced people. Helvetas continues to support Ukrainian organic farmers so that they do not lose their livelihoods and so that people in Ukraine continue to have access to healthy, nutritious and sustainably grown food.
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 591,000 (as of 09/06/2022) 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 acute 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.