War in Ukraine: international coordination of emergency aid in Ukraine | ministries

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Blog Posts | 18-07-2022 | Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Netherlands supports emergency aid in Ukraine. That aid reaches people in need and the safety of relief workers, like civilians, is not a matter of course in a war. That is why good coordination is important. But how does emergency aid get to where it is most needed? We explain this with the help of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

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Picture: ©OCHA / UNICEF

Children eat donated meals in Poland after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

Dutch funding

The Netherlands contributes to emergency aid in Ukraine in various ways. In practice, the Netherlands mainly chooses “non-earmarked” funding. The resources are not linked to a theme or country. Instead, resources can be deployed quickly where the need is greatest.

This method of financing proved to be of added value during the war in Ukraine. As a result, UN relief agencies immediately had the resources available to help from the Russian invasion. Especially in the beginning of a disaster, it is important that emergency aid can be deployed quickly. Rapid intervention saves lives and lays the foundation for a sustainable recovery.

Coordination of humanitarian affairs

One of the UN relief organizations actively using the flexible funding is the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). This agency coordinates global emergency aid to save lives and protect people and is also active locally in Ukraine. They ensure that humanitarian organizations have the information and resources they need to provide substantial assistance, while adapting the assistance provided by various organizations.

The resources used by humanitarian organizations include food, water and sanitation, medical assistance and shelter. OCHA aims to help the most vulnerable people. For example, single mothers, as well as the elderly and families with more than three children, are given priority. In addition, OCHA negotiates secure access to assistance for persons trapped in dangerous or hard-to-reach places.

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Picture: ©OCHA

A hospital in Donetsk receives beds and mattresses for civilians wounded by shelling.

OCHA cooperates, where possible, with Ukrainian civil society organizations providing humanitarian assistance. The care providers work according to a number of principles that the Netherlands considers important. For example, it is important that people are helped in the places that are most difficult to reach. Help is provided as close to those in need as possible.

Equality and the protection of human beings are also central. This is to prevent gender-based violence and abuse. It is also important that emergency aid is realistic, feasible and accessible to all genders and age groups.

Secure access

More than eight million people have received aid since the beginning of the war. While the number of people receiving assistance across Ukraine is significant, only half of the nearly 16 million people in urgent need of humanitarian aid in the country. Many of them are displaced. In particular, the ongoing struggles, the destruction of medical infrastructure and the denial of access for aid workers hamper aid to the needy.

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Picture: ©OCHA

A group of civilians in Mariupol can be safely evacuated after negotiations with OCHA.

Especially the eastern part of Ukraine is difficult to reach emergency services due to persistent violence. The same is true of some parts of southern Ukraine now occupied by Russia, including Kherson. OCHA negotiates with the military parties on the rapid passage of humanitarian aid to people in desperate need of it. It is not easy in a war situation.

Water shortage

Since the start of the war on February 24, at least 20 separate cases of damage to water infrastructure have been registered in eastern Ukraine alone. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas threatens to bring the water system – already affected by the previous eight years of conflict – to the brink of complete collapse.

“Water is essential for life and a right for all,” said Osnat Lubrani, Ukraine’s humanitarian coordinator. She warns against the health risks caused by water outages, especially for children and the elderly. “Poor water quality can lead to diseases, including cholera, diarrhea, skin infections and other deadly infectious diseases.”

Water is essential for life and a right for everyone.

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Picture: ©OCHA

OCHA and partners bring significant supplies to citizens living close to the front lines.

The situation is particularly critical in places such as the largely destroyed Mariupol and eastern Ukraine, where cities are cut off from water supplies and many people risk losing clean water. Restoring access to water and providing emergency supplies to these cities and other battlefields is a huge challenge. Since the beginning of the war in Ukraine, many water technicians and other aid workers have been killed or wounded.

“Young children living in conflict areas are 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases related to unsafe water than from direct violence as a result of war,” said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Ukraine’s representative. “Their access to water, wherever they are, must not be jeopardized by war – for children it is a matter of life and death,” Sahin added.

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