EU supports IDP Hotline in strengthening its Capacity

The humanitarian impact of the long-running crisis in Eastern Ukraine continues to grow. As the number of internally displaced persons in Ukraine now exceeds 1 million, the EU has decided to support the DonbasSOS volunteer initiative – a hotline providing advice to IDPs 0 800 309 110.

The press-conference announcing EU contribution to strengthen capacity of the IDPs hotline.

“There are 1.8 million displaced persons in Ukraine, taking into account those who have left for other countries. If I may make a reference, in the Balkans the total number of displaced persons was 4 million people during the conflict. It is important to have these figures in mind to understand the magnitude of problems that we are confronted with today. And it seems we are far from the end of it.” – says Berend de Groot, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Ukraine. He regards the hotline as an important part of humanitarian aid for crisis-affected people.

‘‘We are receiving about 100 calls a day from displaced persons,” says Yulia Halahan, the coordinator of the DonbasSOS hotline. “In most cases people are calling us to ask for evacuation, or to consult on how to receive the pass. The need for food, clothes, medicines and shelter are the third most common requests. Requests vary every day. For instance, today people called to ask why there are delays in the payment of benefits for IDPs”.

The EU support to the volunteer-led hotline DonbasSOS is part of an 18-month EU-funded project “Comprehensive Stabilisation Support to IDPs and Affected Population in Ukraine”, implemented by International Organisation for Migration (IOM). Its overall budget is € 6.5 million. In addition to the hotline, the project includes several components, including a cash assistance programme, livelihood support to IDPs, and community stabilisation support.

DonbasSOS has been providing consultations via the hotline to affected people since the beginning of the crisis. The hotline coordinator, Yulia Halahan, says that since then “the organisation has advised over 25,000 people. And this number increases every day.” In 2014, the DonbasSOS hotline was recognized as the only professional hotline in Ukraine that provides information support to displaced persons on both legal and social inquiries.

Now the EU support for the hotline will strengthen its capacity and widen the range of topics it can address. Additional areas will include information for people who plan to return to their homes in the liberated territories, which include about 30 settlements in Eastern Ukraine.

The hotline can answer a variety of questions. For example, “Can I send my child to the kindergarten?,” “Is there electricity in my house?,” “Is the company I used to work for operating?,” etc. The hotline will also consult on gender issues and domestic abuse. Its operators are equipped to provide psychological support to people experiencing these and similar problems.

How does the DonbasSOS hotline function?

It is a professional hotline with professional call centre equipment. Its operators work in shifts so the centre can take calls from 9.00 to 21.00 on weekdays and from 9.00 to 18.00 on weekends. The hotline’s database is constantly updated with new information and operators provide the needed information to people only after careful verification.

Volunteers undergo special training in preparation for this work. This includes technical training on how to use databases and equipment, as well as training on how to provide first psychological aid. “We also have programmes on prevention of emotional burnout of our volunteers,” notes Halahan.

Background information: The EU-funded and IOM-implemented project “Comprehensive Stabilisation Support to IDPs and Affected Population in Ukraine” is being implemented in the regions with significant concentrations of IDP and Government-controlled territories in the Donbas. The main activities of the project include, among others, providing timely information, raising awareness about IDPs, and providing technical support to assist the Government of Ukraine in its response to the crisis, in part through improving the implementation of the IDP registration system and data management.

The EU remains one of the major contributors to the response to the crisis in Eastern Ukraine. It has already provided about €46 million in response to humanitarian and transition initiatives, which also includes the work of IOM.

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The cover photo is provided by DonbasSOS.