“When you do not bring medicine to elders, they will not need food anymore.” People in Need aids Donetsk

Published: Dec 11, 2014 Reading time: 5 minutes
“When you do not bring medicine to elders, they will not need food anymore.” People in Need aids Donetsk

Donetsk (11 December 2014) - Due to urgent need, People in Need began systematically assisting in Donetsk and the surrounding area in early November. Since then, PIN has provided food, medicine, toiletries and baby diapers to the most vulnerable residents. The harsh winter weather has led to the rapid deterioration of the humanitarian effort.

Marek Štys, manager of People in Need’s humanitarian programs, depicts the plight of Donetsk’s people: "In the neighborhoods near the Donetsk airport people have lived for months in the old Soviet shelters. They were driven away to damp underground spaces by regular shelling - for them it is simply too dangerous to stay at home and there's nowhere else to go.” In response, People in Need-with the support of the EU- provides weekly assistance to 1750 people in Donetsk, and supplies the surrounding areas with monthly rations.

People stand on the stairs of the shelter in the neighborhood of Trudovskaja. With the first sounds of shooting, everyone rushes into the bowels of the hideout. The shelter is comprised of a large room that overflows with makeshift beds, covered in each family’s own blankets and mattresses that were brought from home. A trustee of the local underground, Natalie, explains: "In total we have here 96 people, 90 of them still live here. Simply they have nowhere else to go.” When asked what the people need the most, Natalie promply answers, “the medicine, especially medicine. This is what we need. When you do not bring medicine to elders, they will not need food anymore.”

In the mining town of Kirovske, shooting rounds are almost continuous – it is close to Debal'tseve, one of the locations where concentrated fighting has occurred for several months. Harsh weather conditions have taxed local people who sought respite from the desperate heat in the summer months. They pumped water from the unused shelter under the cultural house, installed electricity there, and brought any benches and mattresses that had previously filled houses and apartments. Now it is winter, and Inside the premises, the inhabitants keenly feel the harsh, wet weather. Visitors instinctively start to look for the exit after just five minutes inside. "I'd rather freeze than be waiting up there when it falls on me," says Svetlana, one of the residents of this temporary housing, which also serves those escaping from bombed buildings.

In order to help, People in Need imported 400 food packages to Kirovského – a sample package contains rice, pasta, canned meat, sardines, and tea. The packages typically last about two weeks. Help was directed especially to large families with no income, or to the elderly. While the situation in Donetsk is dire, it is even worse situation in neighboring towns that run up to the Russian border, such as Makijevka, Charcizk, Sachtorsk, Torez, and Snezhnoe.

People are dying of hunger

The ranking of basic needs is fairly obvious to PIN’s humanitarian workers: medicine, food, glass for shattered windows, and methods of alleviating sanitary needs all top the lost. "We had fifty deaths from hunger," says Tamara, a voluntary humanitarian employee from Sněžné. Other towns report similar issues, but it is more of a social problem when neighbors do not notice that the grandmother from the second floor eventually stops contacting them completely.

In towns east of Donetsk, about 70 percent of retirees have not received pensions for nearly six months. Companies do not pay wages, and people cannot access the savings they entrusted with the banks. The current focus is on providing basic necessities. "People need especially food, warm clothing, blankets or mattresses. Their homes are often destroyed or uninhabitable. The situation is critical also for the elderly," says Marek Štys, of the situation in Donetsk. For many, humanitarian aid is the only salvation.

Humanitarian assistance for thousands each month

People in Need’s team, which is comprised of volunteers from local charities, provides food packages and hygiene supplies each month to residents of shelters- 600 in total. Local NGOs also help with aid distribution in towns around Donetsk.

"Only in my neighborhood I know a few people who actually began to starve," says Jura from town of Chadzinkovo. He started to voluntarily help with the aid distribution in his free time.

Even worse are those who remain isolated at home in misery, without anyone to see or help. It is difficult for humanitarian aid workers to document such cases - there is no single database of beneficiaries. Some people are registered by social services, but for many, shame prevents them from pursuing aid, while others hope that the poverty will only be temporary. Without tens and hundreds of volunteers like Jura, the situation would be even worse.

People in Need has distributed thousands of food packages in Donetsk and in the surrounding areas with the support of ECHO (European Commission's Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection). PIN also distributed medication to those who subscribed to the emergency hotline- the primary request was for medicines that treat heart disease. Food and hygiene items are distributed to several nursing homes, hospices, or shelters for the homeless. These social service providers are completely cut off from any funding and their directors have no choice but to fight for existence. "I can not just close it and throw those people on the street," says Valentin, deputy chief of a retirement house in Makijevce.

In the future, People in Need will focus concentration on basic humanitarian assistance such as food packages, medicine, and hygiene items, which will be distributed to the most needy, who have been preselected. Assistance should reach at least 8,000 people each month.

People in Need´s assistance in Ukraine

People in Need has been helping in eastern Ukraine since August this year, the activities have been organized from the office in Slavyansk. We provide immediate humanitarian assistance, such as food or medicine, to the most vulnerable people. We also help to repair damaged houses or furnish refugee centers, where people fled from conflict zones. We also distribute vouchers to buy supplies in supermarkets. Read more here.

For more information contact:

Marek Štys, PIN humanitarian programs coordinator, 00420 777 053 522, Marek.Stys@clovekvtisni.cz

Author: Tomáš Vlach, Petr Štefan