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Ukraine crisis: An update on CAFOD's response and how you can help

31 August 2023

CAFOD stands in solidarity with the Ukrainian people. Our sister Caritas agencies and partner organisations are helping people across Ukraine and the wider region.

What is the latest news on the situation in Ukraine?

As winter approaches, millions in displacement centres and damaged homes face temperatures below -20C. An estimated 1.4 million houses have been damaged by the war, and it is mostly older people and people with disabilities who remain behind in homes with leaking roofs, broken windows and no access to heating.

CAFOD's local partner, DePaul Ukraine, is respondinged to support those along the hardest-hit frontline areas in eastern and southern Ukraine. They are providing shelter, food, water, generators, blankets and medical assistance to those most in need.

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Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal

With your help, we can keep supporting the increasing number of families who are in desperate need.

Your donations will help local experts in Ukraine to keep providing:

  • food

  • water

  • healthcare

  • shelter and clothing

  • counselling.

Depaul Ukraine has supported homeless people in Ukraine since 2007, so we know that winter is a dangerous time. Every year, homeless people die in Ukraine due to hyperthermia and frostbite. This year, there will be significantly more homeless people, as well as people whose homes have been damaged during the war. During the winter months, we will continue delivering food, hygiene and medical supplies. Depaul’s large-scale humanitarian response has transported more than 1000 tonnes of food aid, hygiene items and medical equipment into the country.

Father Vitaliy Novak, CEO of DePaul Ukraine, CAFOD's local partner
Europe - Ukraine - Caritas Poland

A Caritas Poland volunteer helps a woman who has fled Ukraine. More than 5 million people have already had to leave the country.

More than 17 million people, almost half the current population of Ukraine, are now in need of humanitarian aid. Fighting and indiscriminate bombing of civilian targets has caused civilian casualties and massive damage to homes and infrastructure.

Five million people have been displaced within Ukraine, while many others – in particular elderly people – are stranded in areas affected by active fighting. People lack access to food, water, health and mental health care, education, and other essential services. Many are living in damaged homes ill-suited to provide protection from Ukraine’s freezing winter temperatures.

According to the UN’s refugee agency (UNHCR), over 6 million people have fled Ukraine into neighbouring countries and beyond (mainly to Poland, Hungary, Moldova and Romania). Most of those who have fled are women and children, having to leave behind their loved ones.

How is CAFOD responding to the crisis in Ukraine?

We are part of one of the largest aid networks in the world – Caritas Internationalis – and because of our global reach and local presence, we are there when an emergency hits. Our Ukrainian and neighbouring Caritas local aid workers and volunteers are part of the communities they work with and many are displaced by the war themselves. They understand people’s immediate needs and are best placed to respond.

Donations to CAFOD’s appeal are helping Caritas organisations to continue and expand their life-saving activities:

  • Caritas Ukraine has 40 regional centres across the country and are one of the largest Ukrainian organisations delivering humanitarian aid. They are extremely experienced, having been active for 30 years and have been responding to the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014. They are helping by:

    • Running warm and safe ‘collective centres’ which provide beds, food, washing facilities, and safe spaces where children can play sports and do arts and crafts as a means of coping with their experiences. Displaced families can also receive up-to-date information, referrals to local services and psychosocial support.

    • Evacuating vulnerable people from near the frontlines and transporting them to friends, family, or the collective centres for shelter and support.

    • Raising awareness of the risks of human trafficking facing displaced people and providing individually tailored long-term support to survivors of trafficking.

  • Caritas Spes-Ukraine, a charity of the Religious Mission of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, mobilised at the start of the conflict to respond by:

    • Providing hot meals and humanitarian aid in their centres across the country and to people who have fled to the borders.

    • Providing emergency shelter in frontline areas, often in parish basements they have equipped with bedding and supplies.

    • Running mental health counselling projects for children and mothers who have been displaced and are traumatised by their experiences.

  • Caritas Poland, Caritas Romania, Caritas Moldova and Caritas Slovakia are all supporting people who have fled Ukraine and are in need of food, water, and shelter upon reaching safety. They are also supporting refugees in neighbouring countries to learn local languages, register for state support, and integrate into their new host communities.

Please donate now to help us support homeless Ukrainian families and refugees

Your generous donations to CAFOD and the DEC's Appeals are already reaching those in need. Jo Kitterick, CAFOD's Director of Fundraising and Community Participation, said: 

“This amazing show of support for people fleeing the conflict has meant that we have been able to start spending money straight away to help more people.

“Through our international partner Caritas, we are working inside Ukraine and on its borders, setting up safe centres with beds, food and washing facilities. We’re also providing transport, information, psychological support and child-friendly spaces."

This amazing show of support for people fleeing the conflict has meant that we have been able to start spending money straight away to help more people.

Jo Kitterick, CAFOD's Director of Fundraising and Community Participation

Thanks to the generous donations made to the DEC's Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, CAFOD are also working with the following organisations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries:

  • Depaul Ukraine has worked with homeless people in Ukraine since 2007. At the start of the conflict, Depaul began providing food and hygiene kits, accommodation, mental health and legal services, and winterisation programmes to people affected by the fighting or who have fled their homes. They now support up to 30,000 of the most vulnerable Ukrainians each day and deliver most of their services in the hardest-to-reach conflict affected areas in the east and south.

  • Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS) runs centres across the country that provide welcoming and safe spaces for refugees to regain their dignity, access services, and learn to navigate the Romanian system. Half of JRS Romania’s staff are Ukrainian refugees themselves and are deeply attuned to the needs and realities of the community. JRS has supported thousands of Ukrainian families displaced from their homes with:

    • Financial assistance to families for rent, bedding and essential furniture.

    • Legal assistance on government entitlements and possible next steps.

    • Electronic tablets and internet for children so they can continue attending the online classes delivered by their schools in Ukraine.

    • Helping people access medical consultations and medicines.

Hear from the humanitarian experts and volunteers working around the clock with people fleeing violence in Ukraine

How you can help

How has the Catholic Church responded?

Pope Francis has called for political leaders to make "a great examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war".

In his Angelus address on 6 March Pope Francis said: “I make a heartfelt appeal for humanitarian corridors to be genuinely secured, and for aid to be guaranteed and access facilitated to the besieged areas, in order to offer vital relief to our brothers and sisters oppressed by bombs and fear".  

The Rt Rev John Arnold, Catholic Bishop of Salford, and Chair of Trustees at CAFOD, along with more than 1000 faith leaders from across the UK, have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to reconsider the Nationality and Borders Bill.

Bishop John and other faith leaders believe that the bill closes the door to refugees. “While there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution, and suffering.”

What is CAFOD calling for?

Every human life is priceless. We are calling for an urgent diplomatic solution and a lasting ceasefire to prevent further suffering and to bring peace back to the region.

There is now a growing humanitarian crisis, and Caritas Ukraine - among other humanitarian organisations - are on the frontline of the response.

Schools, hospitals and water systems must be protected from any armed violence so that practical help can be delivered without delay to people across the country.

The UK must also show compassion towards those who are fleeing the conflict, providing safe passage and refuge to those who need it.

We are concerned by reports of discrimination at Ukraine borders and call for all refugees to be given help and safe passage regardless of their ethnicity, gender or faith.

We have been amazed by your enormous, compassionate response to this crisis and your donations will help local experts in Ukraine to keep providing:

  • food

  • water

  • healthcare

  • shelter and clothing

  • counselling.

When the emergency needs of families affected by the Ukraine conflict have been met and international attention turns to other crises, we are committed to be there in the long-term, to ensure that the communities you are helping can rebuild and heal.

Find out more about the global refugee crisis

I am truly proud of our team that are working hard to look to the needs of the most vulnerable, while managing their own circumstances as well. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our partners and people of good will from abroad.

Tetiana Stawnychy, President of Caritas Ukraine

When did the crisis in Ukraine begin?

Russian armed forces began their attacks against Ukraine on Thursday 24 February 2022, targeting military bases and Ukrainian cities. Russian troops advanced toward the capital Kyiv early on Saturday 26 February and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter.

Tetiana Stawnychy, President of Caritas Ukraine, said at the time of the invasion that “the current crisis will inevitably lead to a colossal humanitarian catastrophe”.

Russia’s military invasion has brought dire consequences for Ukraine, threatening people’s lives, their jobs and essential buildings like schools and hospitals. 

Thousands of civilians, including many children, have died. As the fighting goes on these figures continues to rise. The conflict has caused food shortages and forced millions of people from their homes. The bombing of public services like schools, hospitals and train stations across the country will only result in further suffering of the Ukrainian people.