The war has caused death and suffering on a dramatic scale, leaving at least 24 million in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection. In just eight weeks, 5.3 million people fled Ukraine, and 7.7 million have become internally displaced. The massive devastation has left millions of people without food, potable water, electricity, heating. Fighting has disrupted critical services like healthcare, and prevents farmers from accessing their fields to sow and plant crops essential for food supply in the country.
When news broke that forces of the Russian Federation invaded Ukraine on 24 February, Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) immediately started to prepare its response. Thanks to our partners in the ACT Alliance and our 25-year presence in Ukraine, our reaction was swift and decisive. As a sign of solidarity, ACT has launched a $21.5 million appeal to support the people displaced by the war in Ukraine, from which $9 million is dedicated to HIA operations. The Government of Hungary also provided $1.4 million to HIA’s efforts, which was supplemented by our domestic fundraiser campaign of solidarity for the people fleeing the war in Ukraine.
Our help in numbers
In these two months, we have been able to continuously expand our assistance to new geographical regions and new methods. Our humanitarian operations now stretch from the extreme west of the country to the Dnieper bend in the east, encompassing 10 regions of Ukraine. Until 24 April, the HIA response has reached 70,921 people, providing emergency access to basic food and non-food items, health & hygiene products, protection and links to transportation services. Apart from tangible, in-kind aid, together with our partners we are also able to provide psychosocial assistance to the traumatised people fleeing the horrors of war.
With the imminent refugee crisis in mind, HIA decided to deliver a two-pronged approach to assist those suffering from the effects of war.In the war-torn country our response was helped by our long-standing regional office in Berehove. Three days after the invasion, we established a refugee support point in Astei on the border. Today, the Berehove centre supports over 200 community shelters for IDPs with all kinds of aid in Zakkarpatia. Since the start of the war, HIA has sent 40 trucks filled to brim with core relief – every week 4 or more trucks cross the Hungarian border.
The Lviv office was set up 10 days after the start of the war, and coordinates our humanitarian operationsin Ukraine. Its warehouse and logistics base play an instrumental role in our efforts to provide relief to our partners even further east. We are one of the first international aid organisations to bring humanitarian aid to war-torn regions of the southeast. Thanks to our long-lasting partnerships with NGOs in Dnipro or Zaporizhzhia in close proximity to the frontlines, we are able to help where help is needed most.
The support of HIA is felt even where all but hope is lost to the cruelties of war. For example, through our partner organisation Santis we provide psychosocial help for refugees, and help the families of the aid workers evacuating Mariupol. Furthermore, during the Orthodox Easter weekend a high-ranking HIA delegation delivered 20 tons of aid to the suffering people Bucha, Borodyanka and Irpin.
In Hungary, our efforts are focused on offering both short- and long-term accommodation to the refugees arriving. Our institutions in Debrecen, Miskolc and Budapest welcome refugee families in need and support them with food, shelter and psychosocial support, and are expanding our shelter capacities even further. For those arriving by train to Budapest, together with 5 other Hungarian charitable organisations the refugee transit station in the BOK Sports Hall.
As the war drags on with no end in sight, Hungarian Interchurch Aid has long-term plans for its humanitarian mission in the country. To help those deprived by the war, HIA will employ two types of cash assistance. In our effort to empower large masses of people at once, multi-purpose cash assistance will allow for a more people-centred relief, granting beneficiaries freedom of choice and returning a degree of dignity into their lives. Believing in the power of community, our organisation will also provide flexible cash grants to groups and congregations coping with the horrors of war.
We are also extending our operations to parts of Ukraine where hostilities have only ceased recently, and have signed memorandums of cooperation with municipalities liberated from occupation. In order to reach out to even more people in need, we plan on taking our cooperation with ACT Alliance members to the next level. Our help here is needed, and we will support the victims of war as long as needed.