How to respond to the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine: 4 NGOs explain

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Louise Thompson, Community Lead, Civil Society , World Economic Forum & Emily Wolfe, Early Careers Programme, Civil Society , World Economic Forum

  • Overnight, the lives of Ukrainians worldwide were completely disrupted, their democracy attacked, and millions of people were suddenly displaced.
  • Almost immediately, civil society organizations all over the world began to activate a response to what was quickly unfolding as one of the biggest humanitarian crises of recent history.
  • Here are what four of those NGOs said about responding to a humanitarian crisis such as the one in Ukraine.

The World Economic Forum works closely with a diverse set of civil society leaders – non-governmental organizations (NGOs), labour and trade unions, religious leaders, social movements, activists and others.

We spoke to four key organizations to understand how they are responding to the crisis in Ukraine and what key issues are on their minds. Here’s what they said:

Providing essentials for displaced people through collaboration

As fighting intensifies in Ukraine’s cities, humanitarian agencies stand ready to deliver life-saving assistance. Among those is the International Rescue Committee (IRC) an international humanitarian organization that responds to the world’s most dire humanitarian crises. The organization is working with partners in Poland and Ukraine to reach vulnerable communities and families with essential health and financial services as well as information and protection.

David Miliband, President of the IRC, explained that: “There are three main groups they are trying to reach: those trapped by the fighting inside Ukraine, those fleeing inside the country, and those who have made it to the European Union as refugees. Our partners will be working across the country. We are also using our extensive refugee support services in Germany and Greece as the basis for planning help for refugee integration in those European countries.”

The organization believes that the war in Ukraine has provided a capstone to the Age of Impunity – the abuse of power without accountability.

Protecting those at risk

When conflict strikes, vulnerable communities such as members of the LGBTQI-community as well as women and children are put at greater risk, as World Vision remarked.

The international humanitarian organization focuses on protecting children. They have been working in Ukraine and the surrounding region for decades. When Russia invaded Ukraine, they responded immediately, for example by providing shipments of life-saving supplies to hospitals in Ukraine. The organization also offered much-needed practical and emotional support for children arriving in Romania and the surrounding countries, said Andrew Morley, President and Chief Executive Officer of World Vision International.

“I met children streaming across the border afraid, confused and in tears. You can see the sense of fear in the eyes – and we must be there to support them.”—Andrew Morley, World Vision International President and CEO

He went on to say that: “They have fled this horrific conflict, left family members behind, and now face a world of uncertainty. Some children are arriving with no one to support them, in wretched winter temperatures.”

World Vision believes that the shockwaves from the crisis are being felt across the world, with millions of children, globally, on the brink of starvation. As the conflict in Ukraine pushes wheat prices up, the potentially devastating effects have yet to be seen.

Creating culturally competent humanitarian assistance

Children are not the only vulnerable population in need of assistance throughout this conflict – LGBTIQ people face higher risks and cannot rely on access to mainstream humanitarian aid and social assistance programs which, at best can be exclusionary, and at worst discriminatory. OutRight Action International is an international LGBTIQ human rights organization working to provide safe housing and basic needs, alongside culturally competent humanitarian assistance to LGBTIQ Ukrainians.

The NGO has established a fund to support local LGBTIQ groups in Ukraine and neighboring countries in delivering life-saving assistance to their communities, said Maria Sjödin, Acting Executive Director of OutRight Action International.

“It is the responsibility of all states, under international law, to respect the human rights of LGBTIQ people.”—Maria Sjödin, Outright Action International

Keeping antidemocratic behaviour in check

Russian’s invasion of Ukraine not only threw the region into a severe humanitarian crisis, but it was also an attack on the country’s democracy and the very sovereignty it works for – throwing Ukraine on the frontlines of a global struggle between freedom and authoritarianism, as Freedom House pointed out.

Freedom House is an organization founded on the core conviction that freedom flourishes in democratic nations where governments are accountable to their people. Freedom House has supported democracy advocates and human rights activists for nearly 10 years in Ukraine. Since the invasion, they have been coordinating with partners on the ground to ensure their security, support those who continue to work in Ukraine, and give them the space and resources to pivot to new priorities in response to the war.

Michael Abramowitz, President of Freedom House, explained that: “This is a critical moment for democracy. We are appalled by the brutality and brazen nature of Putin’s war of conquest, and the destruction Russian armed forces have wrought in Ukraine is just a taste of what a world without checks on antidemocratic behaviour would look like.”

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