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‘When you go to bed, you never know if you’ll wake up the next morning’

HIA is supporting people like Olha Fomenko, who with her husband takes care of people who, “have been abandoned even by their very own family.”

August 25, 2022

By Janice Biehn

As Ukrainians marked their Independence Day August 24, they also noted the six-month marker of the current Russian invasion. To date, PWRDF’s Ukraine response has received more than $1 million, with donations still coming in. The outpouring is second only to the earthquake in Haiti in 2010.

Days after the invasion, PWRDF responded to the ACT Alliance appeal and by the end of the first month of the war had allocated $100,000. ACT has focussed its appeal to member Hungarian Interchurch Aid, which has been working in Ukraine since 2014, in response to the Russia invasion of the Crimean Peninsula. In March, PWRDF added an additional $70,000 to the response, leveraging a match through the government of Manitoba and the Manitoba Council for International Cooperation.

Read more about PWRDF’s Ukraine responses

HIA’s response is PWRDF’s largest. They have provided emergency access to basic humanitarian aid, protection activities and other life-saving services both in Ukraine and in Hungary to almost 120,000 people.

“HIA opened border welcome points in the early days for those driving and walking across the border, transitioned to supporting those arriving by train shortly thereafter, and have now opened a centralised refugee hub in Budapest to make it easier to meet refugees’ needs. They continue to analyze needs and patterns and adapt their approach to serve the refugees,” says the ACT Alliance in its six-month report.

Since the escalation of conflict in the country, deadly shelling and missile attacks continue, causing destruction, civilian injuries and deaths. Damage to civilian infrastructure is having a devasting impact on people’s access to essential services, particularly water, electricity and health services in the Donbas region.

In Zakarpattia, HIA has been providing food, hygiene items and children’s good. A summer camp was also organized for 93 IDP children and 21 local children under protection. The next leg of HIA programming in Zakarpattia is shelter restoration.

In Lviv, HIA has provided food and WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) for approximately 5,000 IDPs and in Ivano-Frankivsk the number of IDPs reached by in-kind support is 2,000. Humanitarian aid was sent to Kharkiv and to Mykolayiv in the East as well.

HIA has also been funding psychosocial support and legal counselling through a local partner in Ivano-Frankivsk, Bogorodchany, Verkhovyna, Kalush and Nadvirna. In the first two weeks of July, the local partner continued to run psychosocial group sessions with 138 IDPs, among them were 105 children, under age 17.

In Dnipropetrovsk and Zaporizhzhia, HIA has assessed the needs among IDPs and is planning the next steps of the intervention with its local partner organizations. In Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia, HIA is supporting people like Olha Fomenko, who with her husband takes care of people who, “have been abandoned even by their very own family.”

Olha received a small but life-saving aid delivery from Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) through a volunteer of its partner organization, the Zaporizhzhia-based Santis as soon as they received Olha’s plea for help. The aid consignment should ensure the survival of her and the eight people in her care for another month.

Rockets and other projectiles rain down over the town all day, which has already become a regular part of everyday life. Water and electricity supply is gone, and after many weeks of outages, basic amenities seem to be a thing of the long-forgotten past.

“We are believers, providing shelter, food, and clothing for everyone who turns to us for help,” she tells an HIA staffer. Explosions constantly rock the sky, shockwaves shake the ground, and “when you go to bed, you never know if you’ll wake the next morning.”

Even if Olha wanted to, she could not leave the occupied territories because she would need to pay a “fee” to enter the Ukrainian-controlled territory, or in other words, a bribe at Russian checkpoints. But she is unwilling to escape the occupation.

“All the seeds and wheat have already been taken out of our village,” says Olha, pointing out that they can’t even cope with the general food shortage by growing and making their own food. That is why “we chew on a tiny piece of bread every day,” she adds.

Although Olha says there is a shortage of everything in Blahovischenka, most of her woes are rooted in financial problems caused by the occupation.

Despite all hardship, her faith seems to persist. When asked if there is anyone apart from HIA’s partner organization she and her people can count on, she replies briefly: “God.”

– with files from Hungarian Interchurch Aid

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For media requests please contact Communications Coordinator Janice Biehn at (416) 924-9199;366.

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