Since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine on February 24, 2022, millions of people have left their homes and found refuge in safer areas inside the country, or abroad.
We have been working in Ukraine since 2014 and thanks to our collaboration with the local organization Emmaus, when the war broke out AVSI immediately took action in the countries of arrival of refugees, in Poland, Romania, Moldova, Italy, and in Ukraine itself.
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Twelve months after the beginning of the conflict thousand of people have already been assisted, of which:=
A photo reportage showing 365 days of activities in Ukraine, Romania, Poland and Italy.
On Thursday, February 24, 2022, the population in Ukraine woke up in war. Thousands of people began to leave the country. AVSI, in collaboration with AVSI Polska and FDP Protagonişti în Educaţie, began hospitality offer at the borders. On February 25, it launched the #HelpUkraine fundraiser to ensure food protection.
On February 28, an AVSI team experienced in humanitarian emergencies travelled to Poland to identify the most urgent needs. At the Chelm train station, the very first reception was set up for the refugees, most were women with young children and a hastily prepared bag. "Our husbands and older children stayed behind to fight, we hope to return home as soon as possible."
In March 2022 AVSI began to take care of the welcome of Ukrainian refugees in Romania. In 10 months, in the centers set up in gyms and schools, AVSI helped about 14,000 Ukrainians in transit by distributing essential supplies. We also took care of sorting aid at the border and transporting it to Ukraine (mainly food products).
An AVSI team entered Ukraine on March 10, 2022, through the support of partner Caritas Spes in Lviv. In the reception centers, we helped coordinate volunteers, provide a census and registration of families, and we were responsible for identifying and reporting to specific services people with special needs or particular vulnerabilities (women, separated or unaccompanied minors, people with disabilities).
In Lviv, in cooperation with Caritas, we began the distribution of food and essential goods. Within a few weeks, a commercial warehouse became a storage and sorting center for humanitarian aid arriving from Poland: food, drugs, clothes, diapers, and anything else that could help those fleeing the war.
In the early days of the war, we set up child-friendly spaces within the shelters. We offered psychosocial support to children, their parents and caregivers to deal together with the trauma of war.
March 25, 2022: one month into the conflict we had assisted more than 21,000 Ukrainians (10,476 in Romania, 5,371 in Poland, 4,900 in Ukraine, 390 in Moldova). Among them, there were Tatiana and her son Ciril. Frightened by the first bombings, they fled a small town near Kiev. No longer able to afford to pay for their hotel, after three weeks they ended up in one of the reception centers run by AVSI: there, they found food, shelter, and psychosocial support.
Those fleeing war often face post-traumatic stress disorder, in addition to having to find food and shelter. That is why in the centers we provided support to parents by qualified staff so that they could overcome traumatic events and help their children emotionally as well. Maria arrived terrified at the center: the bus in which she was attempting to leave Ukraine had been attacked with firearms. It was not easy for her and her son to recover from the fear.
Two months after the outbreak of the war, AVSI also began activating emergency relief, child protection and education interventions in the eastern part of the country, in Poltava, near Dnipro and Kharkiv among the areas hardest hit by the conflict. 28 refuge centers in the Poltava region were equipped with electric radiators.
Because of the war, schools in Ukraine had been closed. We distributed educational materials and supported teachers with incentives to volunteer teachers and with specific trainings on psychosocial support and how to deal with the trauma of war with children and young people.
"Today there is no power and we are doing activities with candles," said Marianna, a psychologist and educator in a school in Vysoky, a suburban neighborhood South of Kharkiv. Since the beginning of the war, we have involved 2,000 children in recreational activities and 5,000 children have received educational materials.
Yula, a teacher at Arbus kindergarten, plays in a ball pool built in the building's shelter to continue working with children even during the attacks. The school is located in Kharkiv and is the only place in the neighborhood to socialize for children and teenagers. It is one of 28 schools that benefited from AVSI's intervention for rehabilitations and the setting up of anti-bomb shelters.
"The biggest fear is that of making the wrong choice for my son. When the alarms go off, I don't know whether to take my son to the shelter or let him sleep. I would like to stay in my town, but sometimes I think it would be safer to leave." Victoria is one of the Sumy mothers involved by AVSI in meetings to manage the relationship with their children during the war. Since the beginning of the conflict, we have offered 2,200 minors and 800 adults psychosocial support.
Within weeks after the outbreak of war in Ukraine, AVSI took action to help not only people in Ukraine and on the border, but also in Italy. The very first initiative was the creation of an information and coordination hub to centralize support services for Ukrainian refugees and to network those offering help and those in need. On May 16, the HelpUkraine Hub was inaugurated in Milan, a physical location for reception services, job orientation, document assistance, language classes and medical assistance.
In Milan, the Hub #HelpUkraine activities were delivered by involving AVSI, partner staff and a network of volunteers, including Unicredit employees who chose to dedicate their corporate volunteer day to help Ukrainian refugees.
We met Vira in a kindergarten on the outskirts of Lviv, used as a reception center. When we asked her what she needed, she responded with one word: peace. Vira is the Ukrainian woman who is the face of the AVSI Campagna Tende "Peace is possible" launched in September 2022 to continue helping Ukrainians in Ukraine and Italy
In October, people in Ukraine had to deal not only with war, but with the coming of winter: AVSI began distributing Winter Kits: 3400 people received blankets, electric stoves, thermos, power banks.
From the initiative of the Help Ukraine Hub a real network in support of Ukrainian refugees was born. Today it is active in 7 Italian regions and involves various stakeholders - institutions, companies, local associations - to offer the services provided in Milan at a national level. An example of this virtuous collaboration is the creation of a reception center for Ukrainian refugees in Sarzana (province of La Spezia) in a villa confiscated to the organized criminality.
Rising wheat and electricity prices are among the impacts of the conflict around the world, effects that have especially affected the poorest countries. AVSI has continued its activities in the 39 countries of intervention.