Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) in Ukraine: Providing Humanitarian Help and Social Protection for Internally Displaced People and Local Community Members in Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk Oblast)
In only 25 years, PAH has become one of the largest and most active non-governmental, non-profit humanitarian organizations based out of Central Europe. PAH strives to alleviate the suffering of vulnerable communities during humanitarian crises including all phases of armed conflicts. PAH implements comprehensive WASH, FSL, NFI, Education, Shelter and Protection solutions in difficult-to-reach areas around the world. Currently PAH operates in Syria/Turkey, Iraq, Somalia, South Sudan, and Ukraine.
The conflict in Ukraine entered its fourth consecutive year and while peace talks remain stagnant, conflict continues to spill over a wide range of areas from security and humanitarian to socio-economic and development of the whole nation. The crisis in Ukraine has deteriorated in the face of a protracted conflict that affected more than 5 million people across the country. As a result, about 1.6 million people have been displaced from their homes and are becoming more and more vulnerable as the conflict continues in the Donbas region. Common protection concerns predominate as legislative and bureaucratic barriers deprive many people of access to social benefits, which, for the most part, are their only source of income to cover basic living expenses. Freedom of movement is seriously restricted, worsening the welfare of thousands of people crossing the ‘contact line’ every day. Notorious discrimination against internally displaced persons (IDPs) and limited access to the benefits leave hundreds of people in despair.
Access to basic life-saving services, such as food, health, water and education, is also becoming more and more difficult for conflict-affected population in the face of daily military operations. Cities and towns that are hosting IDPs usually have no opportunities and resources to provide the whole specter of services that IDPs are in need of.
Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) has been present in Ukraine since 2014 implementing activities in Eastern and Central parts of Ukraine. The aid is provided to the most vulnerable categories of the population including elderly people and single mothers.
From August to December 2017 Polish Humanitarian Action implemented the project “Providing Humanitarian Help and Social Protection for Internally Displaced People and Local Community Members in Eastern Ukraine (Donetsk Oblast)”. The main objective of the project was to improve the living conditions of people affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine (Donetsk region and areas controlled by the Ukrainian government) through humanitarian assistance and social protection.
Support was provided to internally displaced persons and affected members of local communities. The project responded to the diagnosed problems faced by internally displaced persons and members of the local communities living in the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka (with more than 20 villages around the towns) through the following measures:
• Monthly distribution of cash grants for the purchase of the most needed food, medical supplies and hygiene items. In total, 620 families (1,576 persons) benefited from the cash grants.
• Distribution of one-off grants to meet winter season needs. 600 persons got the grants for surviving the winter season. People usually spent the received cash on heaters, fuel for the heaters, winter clothes and shoes.
• “Cash for Work” program was implemented in Avdiivka, a town with high level of unemployment located several kilometers from the line of contact. In total, 215 persons participated in short-term employment through a number of community works like cutting trees and providing small repairs at state social institutions. The participants of the program from the rural areas were the most motivated as cash for work is the only possible way for many of them to earn money. Their own resources in the majority of cases were depleted, and since they are not IDPs, they do not receive humanitarian assistance from other NGOs, nor do they receive social benefits from the state. Therefore, cash for work program was in high demand in Avdiivka and close localities.
• Distribution of grants to support self-employment in Bakhmut. 21 individuals got the grants supporting self-employment. The following activities were supported under the project: sewing of bags, hairdresser and manicure specialist services, grooming, mushrooms growing, electrical equipment repair, breeding of chickens, baking, event management, massage, electronic software repair, embroidery, clothes repair, make-up service and others. The grant-winners purchased the necessary equipment and services for their business development or restoration.
Within the project PAH established two Information and Integration Centers for the internally displaced persons and members of the local community of the towns of Bakhmut and Avdiivka. Each Centre employed a Centre Coordinator, social workers, psychologists, lawyers and career advisors. Within the centers beneficiaries were identified for future provision of financial, social, psychological, legal and career-related aid. In total 2742 beneficiaries were registered in the centers for further provision of aid. 825 persons were supported by the legal advisors. 1051 persons were provided with psychological support. 595 persons got consultations from career/job advisors. Within the career mentoring activities, a co-working place equipped with laptops was opened in the Center in Avdiivka to support people looking for jobs. Similarly, two mobile groups were established to offer the support provided by the Information and Integration Centers to residents of smaller towns, who despite needing it, have limited or no funds to travel to the Centers. In total, the support was provided in 21 villages and settlements with outreach teams.
The project was implemented in close cooperation with the local partner Charitable Foundation “Child Smile” and with the funding support of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Poland.