Provide immediate assistance and aid to those affected by fighting in Ukraine.
Ukraine gained its independence after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. The Ukrainian conflict is, in large part, about the future direction of the country. Should it seek closer integration with Western Europe or maintain it close ties with Russia? Nationalist sentiment is strongest in western Ukraine and many there believe that Russia is trying destabilize Ukraine so that it will stop pursuing closer relations with the West and continue to rely on Russia for many of its needs. In eastern Ukraine, which is known for its heavy industry, Russian is the predominant language and people have closer ties, culturally and politically, to Russia than in other parts of the country.
In November 2013, the Ukrainian government took steps to reach an EU association agreement—seen as leading the country towards EU membership—which reignited tensions with Russia. After pro-Russian Viktor Yanukovych, then-president, decided to drop the agreement, tens of thousands of anti-government protesters took to the streets and scores were killed as the demonstrations turned violent. Yanukovych fled to Russia, leaving Ukraine in a state of chaos and turmoil. In March 2014, amid Ukraine’s domestic unrest, Russia sent in troops to annex Crimea, a former Russian territory, while also inciting separatist sentiment in the east. These actions escalated the situation to a crisis. The tensions between the government in Kiev and pro-Russian separatists in the east have led to a civil war. Attempts to reach a ceasefire haven’t been successful.
As in other conflicts, it is civilians that are caught in the middle of the violence. Lack of water, food, electricity, heating, and other basic services are just some of the obstacles people living in eastern Ukraine face. In April 2015, UNICEF reported that an estimated 1.2 million Ukrainians are internally displaced, of which 154,000 are children.
Since 2014, we have been providing aid to people in Ukraine. We began our work by focusing on the needs of some of the least protected members of society: orphaned children. Since the outbreak of violence, rebel forces in the east have been targeting orphanages in order to obtain human shields. We partner with Octuv Dum (Father’s House) and other orphanages that are a part of The Alliance for Ukraine Without Orphans. Many children and caretakers from orphanages have been forced to flee to Kiev and other western cities. Octuv Dum, located in Kiev, has welcomed many of those in need. While this is a safer location for the children, their situation is still not stable. With the arrival of over 120 children from the east, the children’s home has far surpassed its capacity of 50. Octuv Dum has been struggling to provide adequate housing and enough food for all the children in their care.
We are also providing humanitarian aid to internally displaced people who have been forced to flee their homes. Material aid is distributed through local, non-governmental organizations that have expert knowledge of the needs the people. Along with Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe of Germany, we work with Ukrainian organizations Vostok SOS, La Strada, and Child Well-Being Fund (CWBF). We work with these local humanitarian groups because they provide invaluable support to those in need; they know the local language, are able to interact face-to-face, and can quickly and effectively evaluate the needs and problems on the ground.