Ukraine's Unseen Crisis: Mass Civilian Displacement

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1,325,200: the number of internally displaced people in Ukraine.

This is not a story about numbers, though, or even conflict. It's a story about people. And about people who need your help.

"We're not doing enough. This has been viewed primarily as a political conflict in the news," says Erik Heinonen, CRS Ukraine program manager. "The humanitarian catastrophe has not really been talked about or covered: 1.3 million people have left their homes behind and everything they had."

The stories of these families are similar: they fled their homes with few belongings. And they're now competing for the same resources and jobs in an economy that was depressed even before the conflict.

"People are having to lower their expectations to simply meet basic needs, if they can manage that. And that's hard for people to do," Heinonen says. "They have the disadvantage of arriving in cities and not knowing the place or the people. In Ukraine, connections are very important."

Caritas Ukraine has provided humanitarian assistance to more than 50,000 conflict-affected people, and will support another 30,000 during the remainder of 2015. In the past month, Catholic Relief Services and Caritas Ukraine have opened six child-friendly spaces to support trauma counseling for up to 500 children.

displaced Ukraine family

Conflict in Ukraine has uprooted families like Aleksander, Ana and their two children. CRS and Caritas Ukraine are providing humanitarian assistance with your help. Photo by Volodymyr Nechaiev for CRS

"These are kids who hid in bomb shelters, who have seen and heard gunfire," says Heinonen. "What we're doing is much closer to creating preschools, kindergartens and after-school programs. One goal is to help kids integrate into new communities, to create normalcy and stability in their lives."

But while the need is there, the resources are not. Only midway through the project, CRS and Caritas have already provided cash grants to the targeted number of families. Another 1,000 beneficiary families have been identified, and CRS is trying to close the gap.

"Much more could be done for [people] in Ukraine if we had more resources. Because of the very limited funding available, we and other relief agencies have had to target only the most vulnerable families," says Kevin Hartigan, regional director for Europe, the Middle East and Central Asia. "The Ukrainians have been extremely generous in hosting and helping their compatriots, but the country is in a deep financial crisis and we cannot rely on local solidarity to help this many people."

With the escalation in fighting and the expectation that the situation will deteriorate further during the summer months, CRS is relying on you.

With your help, we can continue providing emergency food, water, living and shelter supplies to families—and help them get back to work so they can support their families. "We're hearing the things we're hoping to hear," Heinonen says. "Children are happy, and parents have a little bit of space and flexibility in their lives." Space and flexibility that will help them rebuild their families' livelihoods—and lives.

Find out more about our work in Ukraine and how you can help. We invite you and your communities to join us in "Praying for Peace in Ukraine."