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 third episode of our multi-part series, our colleague Dániel Kiss reports from Pervomaysky in the Kharkiv region.
“Yes, it is possible that there will be no energy supply in winter. Diesel generators could temporarily solve this potential problem, but we are short of high-power generators for the time being,” says the deputy mayor of Pervomaysky, south of Kharkiv.
Around a third of the current population of the former industrial town is internally displaced. Most of the 7-8,000 people rent accommodation in the city and surrounding settlements, many of whom still depend on the aid packages provided by the local government. However, supplies are dwindling, forcing the municipality to ration the available donations. As a result, only the first ten IDPs can access humanitarian assistance on a weekly basis.
“We are not receiving the same amount of humanitarian aid as before,” the deputy mayor points out. HIA’s aid shipment arrived just in time though, alleviating the shortage of supplies at the Pervomaysky distribution centre.
Assessing the possibilities of the introduction of Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance (MPCA), HIA’s task force was reassured to find that despite the difficulties, shops are open in Pervomaysky. Understandably, in order for this form of assistance to be effective, it is essential to actually have somewhere to spend the money, and for those shops to carry goods as well. The concept behind the multi-purpose cash modality is that the person in need knows best what they need. The financial support provides a dignified opportunity for beneficiaries to decide for themselves how to use the funds. Cash assistance not only alleviates the financial problems of the direct beneficiaries, but also generates demand in local shops, which helps to strengthen the local economy.
The municipality is also caring for around 300 internally displaced people in vulnerable situations, including mothers with children, elderly people, and people who have lost everything. They have been provided with temporary accommodation in three kindergartens turned into community shelters, where they also receive two meals a day. But conditions are far from satisfactory. A major problem is that many of them have no beds, thus they sleep in cots without mattresses in the cold rooms. Through its local partner organisation, Life Continues On, HIA has distributed 50 bedframes and mattresses to the kindergartens to provide basic comfort to those in need.
Furthermore, the kindergartens are not ready for winter either. That is why HIA is running a winterisation programme to prepare buildings in need of window replacement and insulation ahead of the looming winter.