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On February 24th, 2022, Russia invaded Ukraine in the largest attack on a European country since World War II. The invasion has left more than 7,000 civilians dead, including 400 innocent children.

To support Ukrainians, Unite for Change launched the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund which includes more than 20 Canadian charities that are providing aid and relief to Ukraine, its surrounding regions, and Ukrainian refugees.

Canadians gave generously on the onset of the war, donating more than $77,999 to the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund within the first month of the war, but as media attention dwindled and the war continued, donations and awareness of the war’s changing conditions have drastically decreased. From April 2022 to January 2023, just over $52,000 has been raised, a 32% decrease from all donations raised in the first month following the start of the war.

This month marks one year since the conflict began and the war continues to rage on, leaving so many in need of support as there is no end in sight. To provide insights into the changing conditions and needs of Ukrainians, Unite for Change connected with some of the charities that benefit from the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund to gain a deeper understanding of what the frontlines of the war look like a year later, how the needs of Ukrainians have shifted, and how Canadians can continue to support Ukraine in changing conditions.

Q: What is the biggest challenge your charity is facing on the ground in Ukraine?

“The constantly changing nature of the war makes responding increasingly challenging. Ukrainians who needed emergency shelter one week may have moved or fled the country the next looking for a safer and warmer place to stay, making beneficiary identification difficult. Safety and security is also a major concern, made even more challenging with severe winter weather.” Stephanie Christensen, Executive Director at Shelterbox Canada

ShelterBox Canada is focused on providing emergency shelter and essential aid items following a disaster or conflict.

“The shifting geography of the conflict can make the logistics of delivering medicines to communities in need a challenge. Health Partners International of Canada is grateful that we continue to partner with respectable non-government organizations who are navigating these challenges in real time, and are nimble enough to ensure that the medicines are reaching the populations that need them the most. […] There has been very little change to the medical needs in Ukraine because the war is ongoing. First aid, and specialized medicines are in need but our organization evaluates need and impact to be made every four months.” Dayana Gomez, Director of Philanthropy & Communications at Health Partners International of Canada

Health Partners International of Canada, is a charity focused on bringing medical aid to those in emergency need. Every year, they support approximately one million people.

The World Health Organization has recorded over 700 attacks against health facilities in Ukraine since February 24, 2022 representing more than 70% of all attacks against health facilities worldwide. These strikes prevent humanitarian aid workers from providing vital aid to populations affected by the conflict, as they also need to take shelter from danger. In eastern Ukraine, Action Against Hunger works in Dnipro, Zaporijia, and Karkhiv, cities close to the frontlines of the conflict where our teams and our partners are near heavy bombardments. To reduce risk, our teams stay away from so-called strategic targets, such as military structures, which are subject to frequent bombings. However, at times the violence is much more indiscriminate and random, putting our staff at extremely high risk.” — Onome Ako, Chief Executive Officer at Action Against Hunger Canada

Action Against Hunger Canada, works in over 50 countries to reduce the number of undernourished people. Over the past three decades, they have been able to reduce this number by half, and are currently on the ground in Ukraine. 

Photo courtesy of Action Against Hunger Canada.

Q: From your charity’s perspective, what has changed since the start of the war in Ukraine?

Several charities described the following challenges and changes Ukrainians are now facing:

        • Limited access to basic utilities such as power and running water.
        • Winter sparks the need for additional gear such as thermal blankets, and sleeping bags.
        • The evolution of the war creates large communities of displaced people. Many Ukrainians have taken refuge in neighbouring countries and require mental health and financial support as they settle in their new communities.

The needs are multifaceted and growing exponentially in all sectors and areas of life. Poverty was already present in Ukraine as were many health challenges of the elderly and disabled. When you’re forced from your home on top of health crises like cancer, heart disease, aneurysms, autism, mobility issues, dementia and so forth, the complexity and gravity of each family’s obstacles are magnified many fold.” — Carollyne Bowyer, Founder and CEO of S.O.S. Ukraine

S.O.S Ukraine is a volunteer-run charity founded in 1995. They are supporting Ukrainians who have fled war zones (Mariupol, Kharkiv, Donetsk, Luhansk, etc.) and remain in the country. 

“At Impact Bridges Group, we’re focused on the immediate needs of Ukrainians, but are also aware that this war will hopefully come to an end in the next few months and there will need to be a focus on development and in getting people working.” — Terry Gray, Executive Director of Impact Bridges Group 

Impact Bridges Group is on a mission to reduce poverty through community development programs.

Q: Could you share educational resources for Canadians to deepen their understanding of the Ukraine-Russia conflict?

Many charities like ShelterBox Canada, Impact Bridges Group, SOS Ukraine, Action Against Hunger Canada, and Health Partners International of Canada have shared resources for Canadians to leverage in order to stay up-to-date on what is happening on the ground in Ukraine. These resources include: 

Image courtesy of ShelterBox Canada.

Q: What would you say to Canadians supporting the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund on Unite for Change?

When asked what they would say to Canadians who have supported the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund, the charities in the Fund wanted to pass along this message:

“With infinite gratitude, we thank you! You’ve helped the lives of many who have lost everything in an instant.” – S.O.S. Ukraine

This collective effort is allowing Ukrainians to make an indelible impact on the war and one in which the Russian forces will not be able to overcome. All Canadians who have participated should be proud of these efforts and accomplishments.” – Terry Gray, Executive Director of Impact Bridges Group

“Thank you! You’ve helped provide families fleeing conflict in Ukraine with essential with food, cash, and mental health support. We know that when armed conflict arises, hunger almost always follows. With war comes displacement, disruptions to local supply chains and soaring food prices. Families are driven into poverty and struggle to access food.  The fight against hunger is a challenging one. But with your help, we can help displaced families in Ukraine and neighbouring countries access the essential resources they need.”   – Action Against Hunger Canada

A year has passed since Russia invaded Ukraine and the war still rages on. Ukrainians are in dire need of our help, and charities on the ground have seen the impact of the war on Ukrainians firsthand, including what kind of humanitarian aid they need. Support more than 20 charities providing relief in Ukraine by making a donation to the Ukraine Emergency Relief Fund today.

Thank you to S.O.S. Ukraine, Impact Bridges Group, ShelterBox Canada, Health Partners International of Canada and Action Against Hunger Canada for sharing their insight, experiences, and stories from the frontlines of Ukraine, and for all of the work they do.

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