“This is a family of four from Horlivka. They received flour, pasta, buckwheat, peas, rice, bread, vegetables, and diapers. The child also got a backpack for school.”
Olha Krasikova, director of the centre for collective accommodation of internally-displaced persons (IDPs) in Kostyantynivka, an industrial town in Donbas, shows us a big registration book. In it she records the names of IDPs who received humanitarian aid, what they received, and when. Since spring 2014 she has registered over 3,000 people.
At the beginning, in the spring and summer of 2014, people mostly arrived from Slovyansk. Then, after Slovyansk was freed and the war moved on to other parts of Donbas, people started to come from Horlivka, Donetsk, Avdiivka, and Yenakievo.
The centre for collective accommodation of IDPs was once a shelter for homeless people. When the war broke out and people started to arrive in Kostyantynivka fleeing conflict-affected areas, the city administration designated the building for IDP accommodation. At that time it had no insulation, large blankets serving as doors, no sanitary ware, and no showers.
”Beds were set up anywhere people could find an empty corner. They were separated with curtains. There was even a bed near the toilet. People were grateful even for this, because they didn’t have the money to rent an apartment,” recounts Krasikova.
Local citizens brought blankets, bed linens, clothes, shoes, and food to the centre. From summer to autumn the centre fed about 130 people per day: 40 litres of soup was brought in a milk churn from another part of the town every day. The main dishes were cooked at the centre.
In autumn 2014, international organisations also started to provide support to IDPs. The Czech NGO, People in Need, opened an office in Slovyansk in September 2014. Thanks to EU financial support, the NGO provided the centre in Kostyantynivka with sanitary ware (toilets and wash-basins), repair materials (drywall, doors, and wires), food, and blankets.
To provide humanitarian aid, organisations visit IDP housing centres and speak with the managers, conduct focus groups, and speak with the IDPs themselves. Step-by-step, these people explain what they need. There is often also a mechanism in place for aid recipients to provide feedback. For example, People in Need has a general hotline for complaints and suggestions. After the project is implemented, the NGO surveys a portion of those who received aid.
People in Need also conducts a shelter project: a special initiative to help repair damaged buildings to house IDPs. Thanks to funding from the EU, People in Need has helped 710 families whose houses were damaged by the war and 10 collective centres, including the one in Kostyantynivka. Specifically, the organisation provided people with building materials and repair services. Every month, the organisation also distributes food to about 15,0000 people living both in Ukrainian-controlled territory and regions controlled by the self-proclaimed pro-Russian republics.
To date, the EU and its member states have allocated millions of euros in humanitarian aid for Ukraine. The EU provides its support via international organisations like People in Need, Save the Children, UN agencies, the Danish Refugee Council, and the Norwegian Refugee Council. These organisations work most often with Ukrainian volunteers, believing that these citizens and humanitarian workers understand the needs of IDPs better than officials.
“People call me and ask: ‘what do IDPs need?’,” says Olha Krasikova. “I tell them: imagine you walked out on the street wearing only dressing gown and you never turned back home. So what do you need? Everything.”