More than three million people have already fled the conflict in Ukraine, and more are arriving each day seeking safety and assistance in neighboring Moldova, Romania, and Poland. Action Against Hunger is now working to support refugees in border towns in Moldova while laying plans for longer term support for those who have been affected by the conflict.
"We are seeing that the conditions of people arriving are worsening. The first people who fled Ukraine had some resources already. Now, those arriving are mothers with children and elderly people without resources. They fled with just the clothes on their backs," says Olivier Longué, Executive Director of Action Against Hunger in Spain, who visited Ukraine and Moldova with the organization’s emergency teams this week. Many refugees are coming from Nikolayev, a city near Odessa. There have been no reports to date of attacks in central Odessa, but if that situation changed, it would intensify the humanitarian crisis at the Moldovan border.
"There are refugees who are hopeful that everything will end soon, and they will be able to return to their homes. Many refugees with special needs or orphans are now in a safe place will stay in Moldova. For everyone, the help they receive from humanitarian organizations is key," says Longué. Action Against Hunger is working closely with refugee organizations in the region to provide crucial support to Ukrainian families.
In Moldova, Ukrainian families are temporarily residing in refugee reception centers. Action Against Hunger, in collaboration with organizations such as Concordia, is providing food, cleaning kits, diapers, wet wipes, and baby formula.
Action Against Hunger is serving hot meals to Ukrainian refugees in the border town of Palanca, and our teams will expand these efforts further as we set up mobile industrial kitchens. Many refugees depend on these meals and say they plan to return home as soon as it is safe for their children. "We never considered leaving, that's why we want to return as soon as possible. We want peace," one refugee told our team.
At the Palanca Refugee Reception Center, our teams installed heaters and electrical outlets to give refugees a place to warm up and charge their mobile phones. Action Against Hunger is also distributing hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and trash bins to refugees. We will install latrines, bio-organic toilets, and showers for people with special needs in the days ahead.
"Our sources say that many of the people fleeing to the border have suffered attacks. Some people travelling by car put signs in the windows with the word 'children' to indicate to the soldiers that there are only women and children in the vehicle to prevent them from being targeted," says Longué.
This week, Action Against Hunger launched a partnership with Éxitus, which helps orphaned children get to safety outside of the country, to support the purchase of vans that can deliver 880 pounds of food to strategic places within Odessa. In the coming weeks, we plan to resume independent operations in Ukraine. Action Against Hunger previously worked in the Donbass region of the country from 2014 to 2018.
"Our goal is to establish a logistics base within Ukraine to support people who remain in the country," says Longué. "We must not forget that, although it is essential to care for the more than three million refugees who have fled the country, there are another 40 million people who remain in Ukraine whose needs increase every day."
More than three million Ukrainians have already fled their homes and sought safety in neighboring countries, and nearly seven million people are expected to be displaced in the coming weeks if the war continues.
In Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Poland, Action Against Hunger is planning a longer-term emergency response. In Ukraine, our top priorities are to provide mental health support, strengthen the health system to meet increasing health needs, support local traders to ensure access to essential goods, provide emergency cash assistance, and support health supply chains so that medicines and other medical necessities reach areas of active conflict.
In neighboring countries, Action Against Hunger plans to support refugees by improving access to safe sanitation and clean water, distributing meals and basic items such as beds and blankets, providing mental health support, setting up child-friendly spaces, and providing emergency cash transfers to vulnerable families.