Meeting the needs of families in conflict situations

News and Press Release
Originally published
Child Friendly Space in Berdiansk, December 2016 © Marcin Ogdowski /,


The conflict in Ukraine has caused massive displacements of people from eastern regions to other parts of the country. It is estimated that there are now around 1.7 million internally displaced people (IDPs) in both the Government Controlled Area (GCA) and the Non-Government Controlled Area (NGCA). Most of them now live in the GCA in a secure environment, though they face many obstacles in meeting their daily needs.

Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) has been present in Ukraine since 2014. After a primary needs assessment, PAH identified the most vulnerable groups of IDPs, including single-parent families. The first response to their needs was an eight-month long project consisted of financial support for displaced single mothers with children in the Zaporizhzhia region. Under this project, PAH subsidised the household budgets of 256 beneficiaries on a monthly basis, providing them with access to basic products (food, sanitation and medical supplies). Now the assistance is being continued on a larger scale thanks to financing from the Polish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The general objective of the project is to provide families of the victims of the conflict in Ukraine (in particular displaced persons in the Zaporizhzhia region) with assistance in essential financial needs, materials and welfare services. Zaporizhzhia is a region where a significant number of IDPs are located (estimated over 100 000 people ). The internal border between GCA and NGCA is not far, which leads to a constant flow of people from the areas of open conflict. Despite the influx, some groups of residents of the region are also in need of humanitarian assistance – mostly in rural areas. While planning support for IDPs, PAH included in the project the possibility of assisting resident single-parent families.

As PAH’s own research shows, most of the respondents (82%) (n=152) currently have social benefits as the primary source of income for the family. Only 13% have a paid job, with 51% declaring humanitarian aid as their secondary source of income. Most of the beneficiaries live in rented flats or collective IDP camps, where living conditions are poor (with a lack of water and sanitary infrastructure, a lack of basic furniture and daily items, a lack of privacy and safety) and access to services are limited.

The main activities within the projects are conducted in cooperation with a local organisation – “Child smile”:

  1. Creating an Information Centre for IDPs and the local community: including offering legal and psychologist support and personal development trainings;

  2. Support for families working or IDPs searching for work, and supporting improvements in the job skills of IDPs and residents: services of professional mentors and social workers, information about available professional courses;

  3. Pre-school point in Zaporizhina for children aged of 3-6, for the most needy residents and IDPs;

  4. Child Friendly Space in Berdiansk for children of various age groups providing a range of activities for children and parents;

  5. Provision of stabilisation grants to help IDPs and local families in meeting their basic material needs.

After three months of operation, the Information Centre in Zaporizhzhia has served 1043 people (both in place and by mobile groups). Under the activities of the Centre, 456 people received social counselling, 186 people attended various activities to improve their job skills, 295 people received with psychological support and 212 received legal support. In addition, the specialists at the centre conducted individual socio-psychological counselling for residents of Primorsk, Melitopol and the nearby villages. The pre-school is attended by 26 children, with 259 going to the after-school club in Berdiansk. There have been 250 families (625 people) who received financial support. The funds received are spent on basic food products, hygiene, medicine and warm clothing.

Mid-term and final reports prepared by employees of PAH and implementing partner, have indicated that the project has significantly improved the quality of life of the beneficiaries. Individual stories can prove the good quality of services. Now 7 specialists within the project team are internally displaced persons, and 5 of them are beneficiaries of a previous PAH project in Zaporizhzhia. The assistance received helped them successfully adjust to the new environment and start building their own career. Under the conducted evaluation, most of the respondents were satisfied or very satisfied with the provided assistance. Under PAH’s evaluation, 57% of the respondents declared that their living conditions had improved or significantly improved after participation in the project. The other 43% still have problems with meeting their daily needs, mostly due to rising food, rent and utilities prices. However, during focus-groups, beneficiaries commented that thanks to financial support of PAH, they can afford to buy food of better quality for all family members. Previously one coping strategy was to give the better food (fruits, fish, diary) to children, while adult members only ate cheap whole grains, pasta and milk and meat substitutes.

The work done by PAH in Ukraine has an additional impact. The implementing partner organisation, which has the best knowledge about local contexts, has also managed to improve its own abilities in order to meet the requirements of PAH and its donor.