By Susan Malandrino
As the needs of people impacted by the conflict in Ukraine continue to grow, the Red Cross is scaling up its response activities to meet immediate and urgent needs, both inside Ukraine and in countries people have fled to seeking safety. One immediate way the Red Cross is providing relief is through an innovative cash assistance program for two million people in need.
“Our number one priority is getting support to people who are most vulnerable. From our previous experience with cash assistance, we know it is a dignified approach to providing aid as quickly and efficiently as possible,” Secretary General of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) Jagan Chapagain said.
IFRC Cash Assistance Program Coordinator, Stephen Hagerich, says that we talk about money in this dry, clinical way but financial assistance is more than just cash. “I give you money, you buy something with it. It’s very transactional,” he said. “You need a can of soup, you buy a can of soup. You need some medicine, you buy the medicine. But there’s a real emotional impact to this as well,” Hagerich said.
Hagerich says that the emotional context of helping people in this way can sometimes be really difficult to capture. “Behind every dollar that goes out, there’s a story about how people use it,” he said.
“With every day that passes, we know vulnerabilities increase. Access to medical supplies, food, water, utilities and other vital goods and services deteriorates” said IFRC Regional Director for Europe, Birgitte Ebbesen. “We know there are so many uncertainties for people right now, but one thing that’s clear is the needs are immense and they will be for a long time.”
Since the crisis intensified, the Red Cross has supported more than one million people with more than 1,800 metric tons of hygiene and kitchen items, blankets, food and critical care items in Ukraine and surrounding countries. Officials say longer-term financial assistance will address the needs of affected people as the crisis evolves.
The IFRC has partnered with Red Cross and Red Crescent national societies to assist 3.6 million people over two years, with multi-purpose cash assistance, healthcare, water, sanitation and hygiene services, as well as shelter and housing support. Globally, more than 55 National Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies have supported the response to date.