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Heroic aid workers already making a difference

Aid workers supporting the Disasters Emergency Committee’s (DEC) Ukraine appeal are already helping people affected by the conflict thanks to generous donations from the public. 

While the conflict continues, humanitarian workers delivering aid to people in Ukraine are working ‘heroically’ to help those fleeing the violence. 

The UN estimates that more than 3 million people have fled Ukraine and almost 2 million more have been displaced inside the country with many unable to leave their homes because of heavy fighting. 

The Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) brings together 15 leading UK aid charities at times of crisis overseas. It launched its Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal on 3 March and has so far raised over £200 million, including £25 in Aid Match from the UK Government. 

The aid effort is fully underway both inside Ukraine and on the borders of neighbouring countries, with DEC charities and their local partners working to meet the immediate needs of all people fleeing the conflict with food, water, medical assistance, protection and trauma care.  

Donations to the appeal are allowing DEC charities to scale up their work to meet the increasing humanitarian needs of people whose lives have been devastated by the conflict.  

For example, through the Ukraine Red Cross, British Red Cross is providing support in reception centres, shelters and metro stations within Ukraine, as well as distributing food, first aid, warm clothes. Age International is responding inside Ukraine via local partners to support older people, as well as supporting refugees in Moldova. Concern Worldwide is working with partners to scale up the provision of aid including food, nappies, hygiene supplies and psychosocial support, both within Ukraine and at the borders. 

Saleh Saeed, Chief Executive of the DEC said:  

“Staff from our member charities and their local partners are working heroically despite the extremely challenging circumstances within Ukraine. They have told us that the situation is ‘unsettling and confusing’ but despite that continue to get help to those who need it most.   

“The money raised by the British public is already being spent by DEC charities, organising the delivery of hygiene items, trauma kits, nappies, sleeping bags and mats to the cities of Lviv and Kyiv by truck and train. Others are distributing food, first aid, warm clothes, and support in reception centres, shelters and metro stations, and much more. It is difficult, challenging work and the DEC is extremely grateful to them for all their efforts.”  

Kieran McConville, an aid worker with Concern Worldwide, currently in Lviv, said:  

“It’s obviously very difficult to conduct effective humanitarian operations in an active conflict zone and that’s what many brave people are trying to do in the east and south of Ukraine right now. One of our partners is facilitating aid distributions in the city of Dnipro, which has been coming under attack in recent days, and we know that those involved are doing it at great personal risk. 

“With such a highly fluid situation and such a large number of people on the move, another challenge is to try to predict how and where to meet the next set of needs. Many people are leaving the country, but many others want to stay and it’s important to get a clear understanding of what’s going on.  

“Accurate information is key and that’s not always easy to come by in times of conflict. Thankfully, many established humanitarian organisations — like the member charities of the DEC — are highly experienced at operating in contexts like this and we’re confident that we can effectively respond where we’re needed most.” 

Julia Brothwell is a British Red Cross aid worker currently supporting the International Federation of the Red Cross and Ukrainian Red Cross from Chernivtsi near to the Romanian border. She said:  

“People are cold, temperatures are around freezing day and night, and they are anxious because they don’t know what the future holds. The Red Cross is distributing food, water, medicines, blankets and hygiene materials. 

“So far more than 300 tonnes of food, blankets, medicine, and trauma kits has been sent to Red Cross branches and local authorities across the country, including towns and cities in the north and east with another 300 tonnes in the pipeline ready to be transported. In addition, several thousand people have received psychosocial support from Red Cross volunteers. 

“Ukrainian Red Cross has teams based across the country, and those volunteers face the same challenges as the communities they live in. Sometimes it is hard to move around safely, or they lose communications with family and friends. But still, they do everything they can to help people.”   

Chris Roles, Managing Director at Age International, said:  

“Due to the nature of this crisis, our staff and volunteers are facing huge challenges when trying to send help where it is needed. For example, in some cases agencies in Ukraine are using cars instead of lorries — which could be mistaken for military vehicles — to transport essential supplies which is less efficient and slowing things down.  

“One aid worker delivering food and medical supplies to older people who are unable to flee their homes reported having to take cover 12 times in a single day as a result of air-raid siren warnings, so humanitarian aid is constantly being disrupted. 

“In addition, people are really worried about the safety of humanitarian corridors. This again puts a stop to getting help and supplies to the people who urgently need it, as well as making it extremely frightening for those who could flee but who don’t know if it’s safe and are unsure where it will lead them to.”  

As well as providing urgent assistance now, donations to the DEC will continue to be used to help support those whose lives have been devastated by the conflict in the months and years to come. 

Image: DEC

Founder Member of Campaign Collective, chair of the Public Relations & Communications Association Charity and Not-For-Profit Group. Write mainly about charity, public sector and social enterprise campaigns.