Diaspora Organizations and their Humanitarian Response in Ukraine in 2022



This real-time review is part of the Diaspora Emergency Action & Coordination initiative’s (DEMAC) “Research study on diaspora humanitarian response and engagement”.

On 24 February 2022, the Russian Federation launched a coordinated offensive on Ukraine. The hostilities have been characterized by indiscriminate shelling and aerial bombardments and have resulted in largescale displacement across the country. As of 6 April, OCHA reported that 6.5 million people are estimated to be internally displaced in Ukraine. Internal displacement has largely responded to the patterns of conflict in Ukraine, with the situation in eastern, southeastern, and northeastern Ukraine - in addition to Kyiv - being particularly volatile.

Throughout the 2014 to 2022 period, Ukrainian diaspora organizations (DOs) transitioned their humanitarian activities from a spontaneous approach based on supporting those most in need to developing longer-term relationships with communities, local organizations, and hospitals requiring support. The Russian Federation military offensive on Ukraine on 24 February 2022 has once again thrust diaspora organizations into the position of being both frontline responders and important donors to local organizations and other frontline responders. Their close attention to the escalation of hostilities and their previously developed relationships in Ukraine have put them in a unique position as interlocutors between host countries and their focal points in Ukraine.

To better understand the situation, DEMAC commissioned a real-time review to assess the activities, reach, and impact of Ukrainian diaspora organizations for six weeks following the offensive on Ukraine. The study commenced with a diaspora organization mapping exercise of 63 Ukrainian DOs. To support the refinement of the mapping process and to identify organizations willing to participate in the real-time review, an online survey developed on Kobo in English and Ukrainian was shared with the 20 shortlisted organizations reviewed in this study. Social media monitoring consisted of a review of selected organizations’ social media accounts between 24 February 2022 and 1 April 2022. A total of 18 key informant interviews (KIIs) were conducted with Ukrainian DOs (14), formal humanitarian actors (INGOs, UN agencies) (3), and DEMAC staff in Ukraine (1). To support the monitoring of diaspora organization coordination and concerns, researchers attended six weekly DEMAC-organized coordination meetings (beginning 10 March 2022) attended by diaspora and national NGOs.

This report finds that many organizations were well-placed to respond to the situation in Ukraine due to experience gained during the 2014 to 2022 period in response to the annexation of Crimea and areas of eastern Ukraine. This includes the ability to leverage pre-existing contacts and partners on the ground – particularly in the health response – as well as prior experience coordinating delivery of aid to remote areas of the country. In this sense, DOs had equal or better access to Ukraine as compared to traditional humanitarian actors in the early response period. Many organizations were well-placed to continue advocacy messaging and began organizing protests prior to 24 February 2022 in response to anticipated hostilities.