Those who don’t make the news – City of ghosts

While the world looks to the newly liberated areas of eastern Ukraine, little is said about those who have been destitute since the first day of the war and whose situation has changed little. The combat events in the Kharkiv region can only mask the hardships endured for more than half a year by the people living here for so long. With winter approaching and temperatures dropping, issues such as broken and shattered windows, damaged walls and roofs, and the general lack of heating are coming to the fore. Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) has carried out an extensive survey of the region to provide the fastest and most effective assistance possible to one of the worst-affected areas by the war. In the first episode of our multi-part series, our colleague Dániel Kiss reports from the suburbs of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine.

Saltivka, Kharkiv region, Ukraine

At eight o’clock in the morning, HIA’s team arrived in Saltivka. The district full of ten-storey apartment blocks on the outskirts of Kharkiv resembles a ghost town. Hundreds of windows boarded up, a burnt-out apartment here and there on the upper floors. The task force followed local volunteers that brought two hundred so-called SOS parcels containing basic and quick-to-prepare food items to the seemingly deserted neighbourhood. The volunteers come every two weeks, and distribute the parcels containing rations just enough for one week.

The ghost town came alive moments after our arrival with elderly people bringing the small car park between the houses to life. The two hundred parcels quickly found their owners, and the district fell silent just as fast as it came to life. 

Although Saltivka residents have a pension, the monthly payment is barely enough for utilities and a limited amount of shopping. That is, if there is somewhere to shop, as most of the shops in the outer district are closed, while those that are open sell the most basic goods. Due to the limited availability of goods in the area the best way to alleviate this type of situation is to hand out humanitarian aid regularly. Since this has been the case ever since the start of the war, HIA’s partner organisations active in Kharkiv and the surrounding agglomeration already distributed a couple of tons of food and hygiene items from Hungary.

The increasingly visible problems leave most NGOs and charitable organisations with increasing concern about the humanitarian situation of the region.

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