AS we know from international news reports and statements from other official bodies, eastern and southern parts of Ukraine continue to face fierce fighting, exacerbating the already dire humanitarian crisis. As intense fighting and air strikes continue to cause civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure across the country, the duration of martial law in Ukraine has been extended until 25 May 2022.
According to the United Nations International Organization for Migration, 600,000 additional people were internally displaced in the first 17 days of April, bringing the total number of internally displaced persons to 7.7 million. In total, nearly 12.8 million have been displaced internally or across borders since 24 February.
The civilian toll of the ongoing military offensive has now surpassed five thousand. As of 20 April, the number of civilian casualties since 24 February 2022 stands at 5,264, including 2,345 killed and 2,919 injured, according to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights.
Responding across Europe
The Salvation Army has continued to respond to the humanitarian crisis unfolding across Europe as a result of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, whilst recognising that not everyone in Russia either supports the war or is free to state their objection and there are Ukrainians living in Russia today. The Salvation Army has responded to the needs of refugees in all but two of the European countries in which it operates, by providing food, hygiene, practical advice and spiritual care. As always, this care is offered without prejudice or discrimination to all those in need.
The number of people leaving Ukraine has reduced, and as yet unconfirmed numbers of people are reported to be going back into Ukraine. The Salvation Army in Ukraine is providing relief such as sandwiches, hot meals, hot drinks, drinking water and other non-food items to internally displaced people in various locations. Cities like Lviv, near the border with Poland, receive a large number of displaced people and The Salvation Army has been able to transport goods to three corps (churches) there. Another delivery was planned for the end of April.
The Eastern Europe Territory and International Headquarters’ (IHQ) International Emergency Services (IES) are in daily contact with corps officers in Lviv. There are also plans to implement a ‘care for the carers’ package to support all responders with additional spiritual care. Officers remain largely in their corps locations and are serving where they are appointed. Female officers and children were given the opportunity to evacuate to Moldova, but most decided to stay.
In Dnipro, The Salvation Army provides prepared sweet pies and has distributed them to displaced people. It has also distributed more than 100 pieces of survival equipment – supplied by the Red Cross – to displaced people at the train station every day. In Lviv, The Salvation Army stocked-up other supplies and shared contact details on social media to enable displaced people to get in touch and receive the most essential items. Both urgently needed food and non-food items have been transported to Ukraine via Poland. Additional trips are planned.
In the Federal Asylum Centre in Switzerland, The Salvation Army – together with Caritas – continues to operate a placement service for qualifying displaced people. More than 1,000 people have been placed using this system so far.
The operation of the Initial Reception Centre in Switzerland, with a capacity for 500 in the civil defence facility ‘Allmend’, is now entirely managed by The Salvation Army along with four other short-term shelters for approximately 280 people. A fifth shelter is being planned with capacity for some 150 people. The largest shelter, with a capacity for 1,000 rooms, has been established in a container village in Bern’s ‘Vierefeld’.
The Salvation Army now operates a ‘civil protection facility’ in Bern, with 500 places in addition to the existing refugee shelters. The Hope clothing drop-off centre in Zurich has opened and 453 vouchers have been utilised, with each voucher allowing a person to collect 10 items of clothing. The Brocki thrift store has produced 10,000 vouchers for a one-time 50 per cent shopping discount intended as emergency aid for qualifying refugees.
The Eastern Europe Territory has developed posters and flyers in a variety of languages which are now in use in all locations as part of its anti-human trafficking work.
Neighbouring host countries such as Hungary, Moldova, Poland and Romania have also been impacted by the crisis. The Salvation Army in Hungary went to the border early after the outbreak of war to assess likely needs. The Salvation Army’s Switzerland, Austria and Hungary Territory is supporting the Hungary Region in the response both with personnel from within the territory and basic relief items. An emergency team supported refugees by helping to welcome people at the border, and in the emergency shelter by providing emotional and spiritual care.
In Budapest, 22 sites were made available for the reception of refugees. Gyöngyös Corps and Remeniség Centre will prepare food for up to 40 people as soon as the city extends its help in receiving more refugees. The corps officers in Debrecen and Miskolc have also been mobilised to support work at different border posts.
More than 500,000 refugees have crossed the border into Hungary, with countless volunteers helping to provide for people in need. Fifty-two pallets of relief supplies have arrived from The Salvation Army in Switzerland, whilst Salvation Army personnel have travelled almost 9,000 kilometres and spent 1,500 hours in recent weeks helping Ukrainian refugees in Hungary.
Working in partnership
In partnership with local government, Ungheni Corps in Moldova is providing daily refugee services for Ukrainian women and children. The facility has some 90 private rooms with access to kitchens. The Salvation Army is providing clothing, food, laundry services, and emotional and spiritual care. In addition to community rooms and an outdoor playground, there is a classroom programme for Russian-speaking children to continue their education. The Salvation Army also works in coordination with the ‘Centre for Refugees Reception’ in the village of Mikhaylany in the Ryshkansky district.
During the time of the humanitarian corridor in March, the Salvation Army team in Moldova managed to send urgently needed medical items across the border where a team from Ukraine transported them to a children’s intensive care unit in Odessa. Several trips to transport further items have taken place since. The Salvation Army in Moldova also provides free assistance to refugees from Ukraine including temporary accommodation, hot meals and drinks and access to Wi-Fi.
‘Food for All’
The Salvation Army has prepared relief parcels for Ukrainian refugees coming into Poland. The regional officers and corps officers in Warsaw, together with members of the IHQ IES team, supplied much-needed items to a Warsaw reception centre in early April. In English, the Ukrainian sign there reads, ‘Welcome, free food for all’, a simple act of kindness that expresses so much to those fleeing their homes.
The Salvation Army is also working in the Romexpo refugee reception centre in Bucharest alongside the municipality and other stakeholders. Part of the responsibilities are to raise awareness of the risks of human trafficking. Information material has been developed in various languages and to date more than 4,000 Ukrainian refugee families have received this, along with thousands of supermarket shopping vouchers targeted specifically at families with children.
Tens of thousands of refugees passed through the Siret camp in Romania in March. The Salvation Army emergency team offered help to complete asylum seekers’ documents, gave advice about how to obtain biometric identification documents, assisted with the emotional aspects of family reunifications with those waiting outside the camp, and coordinated the need for and distribution of relief material with other organisations.
Sanctuary and support
Other host countries have also offered sanctuary and support. These include Austria where The Salvation Army is networking with partner organisations to help those who have escaped from the war zone. Exchanging information with The Salvation Army in Switzerland and Hungary, Austria also monitors developments in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
Belgian Salvationists have provided financial support for a young Ukrainian woman to travel from Romania to Brussels. She was welcomed on arrival in Belgium and is now in temporary accommodation provided by the Belgian Salvationist team.
Two Russian-speaking officers from Bulgaria went to the border with Romania for four days in April to join with the Red Cross in the distribution of food parcels, hot meals and to offer a listening ear to refugees and those wanting to reunite with relatives. More than 400 people were assisted.
The Czech Republic is already home to some 200,000 Ukrainians and therefore anticipates many more refugees will seek support from family and friends there. The Salvation Army has capacity in the existing social services in the Czech Republic, so since February has been ready to provide support without impacting the existing client base.
The Denmark Territory is preparing a project in Tønder, a town on the German border. The territory has a current project for disadvantaged families, and many Ukrainians have been seeking assistance. In March negotiations were on the municipal level, but The Salvation Army has been helping by supporting social programmes and offering basic aid such as food, hygiene, inclusion programmes and activities for children.
Also in March, Salvation Army social institutions in France held discussions with the French state regarding the management of locations for refugee accommodation. In Le Havre, north-western France, The Salvation Army is officially responsible for the social support of Ukrainian refugees, both in the first emergency reception centres and in more permanent accommodation. This is either with private individuals or in accommodation made available by local authorities.
Georgia is now welcoming displaced people from Ukraine. In Batumi and Tbilisi, Salvation Army assistance includes the distribution of food parcels, hygiene supplies, clothes and blankets.
In Germany, Berlin South West Corps has been working closely with volunteers at Berlin-Südkreuz train station. The corps welcomed 20 refugees from Ukraine in one night. People have been provided with accommodation, breakfast, lunch, supper, laundry services, hygiene kits, conversation, caring and shared prayers.
In April, Greece launched ‘The Meeting Point’ project to assist people who have fled the conflict in Ukraine. Based at Athens Corps in Agios, Panteleimonas, it provides practical and essential material needs, and assistance and advice in order to provide a pathway for meaningful integration. The Greek Salvation Army has also provided mobile phone sim cards and supermarket vouchers to Ukrainian refugees.
Latvia has provided food, water and bedding to refugees arriving from Ukraine, whilst in Lithuania an increasing number of Ukrainian families have been applying for essential items. The Salvation Army in Klaipeda and Vilnius is helping in any way it can, with food and hygiene articles, bedding, supermarket vouchers and clothing vouchers for the Salvation Army second-hand shop. Many existing children’s activities have been expanded to include refugee children.
In late March, The Salvation Army took on responsibility for one of Norway´s largest refugee emergency accommodation centres. ‘Kongsberg akuttmottak’ will house 700 Ukrainian refugees for two to three months at a time, before they are offered permanent housing in the municipalities. The centre, situated in a recently closed university college, measures 15,000 square metres, and offers four meals a day, health services, activities for small children, and primary and elementary school teaching, in cooperation with the town authorities. The Salvation Army has a one-year contract with the government for the operation of the centre.
The Spanish government, via individual city councils plus the Red Cross, receives Ukrainian refugees and then locates the places that offer services and aid needed, such as shelter, food and accommodation. The Salvation Army has contacted the government to offer its resources, including the provision of food and temporary accommodation in Denia and Coruña.
The Salvation Army in the Netherlands is providing support to families hosting Ukrainian refugees and is managing several temporary shelter locations, including on cruise ships made available for this purpose.
Report from SAWSO (Salvation Army World Service Office)