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This blog post is a summary of the insights and learning from a discussion on Ukraine Relief Efforts anchored by Micron Foundation and AVPN. The speakers were individuals from AVPN member organisations – UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO Foundation who shared their experience, learning and perspectives on the relief efforts in Ukraine.
Since late February 2022, the ongoing war in Ukraine has forced 15 million Ukrainians to leave their homes and seek refuge in surrounding regions and elsewhere in the country. As the situation worsens, we’re realising the intergenerational impact of the war.
June 3rd marked the 100th day of the Ukraine-Russia war – 100 days of uncertainty, of grappling with fear and survival. The war appears far from over, and the crisis is moving at an unprecedented rate. The need of the hour is urgent and collective action to support the people on ground. While a lot has been done by funders, NGOs, governments, and the local population- there’s still a lot that still needs to be done.
AVPN members- Micron Foundation, in association with UN agencies anchored a panel discussion on the 99th day of the war to share information about efforts to support vulnerable populations within Ukraine and in the neighbouring areas. The panel, moderated by Antara Lahiri, Director, Micron Gives with speakers Daniel Walden, Humanitarian Programmes Specialist, UNICEF Europe and Central Asia Regional Office , Astrid van Genderen Stort, Chief of Emergencies and External Engagement, UNHCR and Dr Emanuele Capobianco, Chief Strategy & Impact Officer, WHO Foundation brought together perspectives on Ukraine relief efforts from their experience of working with children, refugees and people forced to flee, and on health respectively. This article highlights the key insights from the discussion.
The scenario on Day 99
There are people on ground to meet the needs of the millions of refugees leaving Ukraine, however the risks of trafficking, abuse and exploitation continues – especially for women and children, who are on the move as men from their households stay behind in Ukraine. The statistics of people leaving Ukraine are horrifying – 6.5 million refugee movements have been recorded outside Ukraine, 8 million people have been internally displaced, with two thirds of them being children and due to ongoing insecurity, 13 million people remain in hard-to-reach and conflict-affected areas. Displaced people have been crowded in shelters which poses risk to health for the 5.2 million children in the region.
The region is currently at risk of cholera outbreaks, reduced vaccination rates for displaced children, people living in conditions amidst sounds of explosive weapons. There is a need for trauma care for everyone, and focus on mental health for the refugees, children and the displaced population is of paramount importance. Even chronic conditions such as diabetes, hypertension and the like – if not supported by the right medication in a timely fashion can become lethal in nature. In a situation where the health system is constrained by supplies and resources, it becomes all the more important for organisations to work together to bridge the existing supply chain gaps.
UN Agencies’ Response
UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO have been on the vanguard to support vulnerable populations in Ukraine. UNICEF is working with UNHCR, local authorities and partners to bring safety, stability and advice to families fleeing the war in Ukraine via their ‘Blue Dots’ centres. These family and child protection hubs provide refugees with critical information and practical support to help them in their onward journeys. They identify and register children travelling on their own and connect them to protection services, and also offer referral services to women, including for gender-based violence. Together, they’ve enabled healthcare for more than 2 million children. UNICEF has been actively working to support over 600000 children with mental health care and ensuring systems in and around Ukraine support children in their education and learning.
WHO has been collaborating with the Ministry of Health and health professionals to ensure movement of health supplies to almost all cities in the country. WHO has set up 70 emergency medical teams to support Ukrainian healthcare workers and supplies including emergency surgery kits that are sufficient to cover up to 16 000 surgeries and serve an estimated 650 000 people for three months. WHO has also been involved in monitoring the attacks on healthcare facilities, and monitoring access to healthcare: 1000 facilities are less than 10km from the frontline and half of the pharmacies in the country are closed.
As lead of the inter-agency Regional Refugee Response Plans,UNHCR is distributing emergency cash assistance to help support displaced individuals and families meet their most urgent needs while on the move. In Poland alone, over US$20 million in cash support has been distributed. UNHCR has coordinated efforts supporting refugees in neighbouring countries, bringing close to 140 UN, NGO and other partners in 7 countries together to support host country governments to address the gaps and needs for the refugees, including access to territory, critical protection services and humanitarian assistance.
Our panellists highlighted that while the Ukraine crisis has gained attention in certain parts of the world, there is a need to understand and recognize that there are other many crises that are engulfing the world concurrently and it is imperative for us to recognize that. The pandemic demonstrated the importance of solidarity – of working together and of collaborating. And across the world, the Ukrainian crisis has witnessed giving in terms of financial support and in-kind goods and services. The private sector has engaged with the operational response of the agencies and opened doors to services, a testimony to what we can do together. To meet needs that are huge and are increasing, humanitarian actors continue involving organisations with a local focus that enable coordination and work with the system to ensure robust and sustainable solutions. We will see a time when the crisis will receive less attention in the media- but we need to keep Ukraine’s people in mind- for they will return to their homes, and will need support to rebuild their lives and communities. The response to the war needs funding that is flexible to support initiatives that nobody talks about- it could be training guards on the border to identify women and children at risk of exploitation, or training teachers on working with children affected by the trauma of war and displacement, or enabling people to build back their lives through employment and integration. The situation in Ukraine is changing on an hourly basis as are the needs, and unrestricted emergency funding would ensure that these dynamic needs are being met in a prompt manner.
While the above issues are just the tip of the iceberg, the collective solidarity of the people is what keeps people like Daniel, Astrid and Emanuele and their teams to support Ukraine’s people on ground in life threatening situations. They cannot continue this work without the support of key stakeholders- funders, NGOs, local organisations, governments in facilitating innovative, quick and efficient responses for the vulnerable population, and the note of gratitude for that solitude and appeal for that continued solidarity is what the discussion ended on.
Here are some useful links for readers curious to know more about what is happening and what further needs to and can be done.
- UNHCR’s Ukraine Relief Efforts response page
- War in Ukraine: Support for children and families | UNICEF
- WHO Health Emergency Appeal for Ukraine
- Visit AVPN’s Ukraine Relief Effort to support the work of our members
For queries related to any of the following you may reach out to:
- Ann Putnam Marks, Regional Partnerships Manager, UNICEF
- Ann Moey, Partnerships Lead, UNHCR
- Laura Brackenridge, Corporate Partnerships & Shared Value, WHO Foundation
Or write to us.