With the invasion of Russian troops on February 24, 2022, a never-ending nightmare began for the people of Ukraine. For example, in the northern Ukrainian town of Okhtyrka. On the very first day of the war, tanks rolled past the windows of the kindergarten here with the magical name "Kazka," which means fairy tale in Ukrainian. "In May, parts of a missile hit our playground. And all the constructions made of metal and plastic, including 129 windows and nine doors, were also destroyed," Olena Horobets, the head of the kindergarten, told us. For the 174 children in eleven age groups looked after here, everyday life as they knew it was over in one fell swoop.
Cold threatens vulnerable people
For months now, Okhtyrka, like many other areas in the north of the country, has been back under Ukrainian control. But the damage is still immense. Especially now, when temperatures are deep below freezing, many people are defenceless against the cold, as their houses are broken, heating systems no longer work, and social facilities and civil infrastructure have been deliberately destroyed.
Winter aid is also urgently needed in the east of the country, which remains heavily contested. "Many people could not and cannot flee, because they are bound to their place of living due to illness, age, poverty or an impairment", says Sarah Kendziorra, who is in charge of the projects in Ukraine as a foreign programs officer at arche noVa. "At the same time, many organizations fled to the west of the country after the invasion began," Kendziorra says, adding:
"In order to continue to provide assistance to the most vulnerable populations, we made a conscious decision to focus on the eastern part of the country"
Emergency aid has reached over 30,000 people so far
Thanks to our long-standing commitment on the ground, we were able to launch emergency aid measures together with local partner organizations shortly after the invasion began. With our partners New Way and Strong Communities, we have since been organizing supplies for internally displaced people in the major city of Dnipro and, as far as security permits, distributions of relief goods in towns near the front line in the Donetsk region. These include food, water, hygiene kits and, especially important now in winter, blankets, clothing, stoves and fuel.
With reconstruction aid, we are also supporting the areas in the north of the country that are once again under Ukrainian control. Here, too, our focus is on particularly vulnerable sections of the population. To protect them from the cold, we have already renovated around 150 damaged private homes, repaired the heating systems in 100 households and rebuilt ten social facilities such as hospitals and kindergartens - including the "Kazka" kindergarten in Okhtyrka. Thanks to new, sealed windows and a functioning heating system, the building now serves as a warming station in the badly damaged city. We are also working to rebuild the WASH infrastructure in 7 communities, for example by equipping them with water laboratories.
"Thanks to the great solidarity, we have already been able to achieve a lot. So far, arche nova has reached over 30,000 people with emergency and reconstruction aid," says Dmytro Drizhd, head of arche noVa's country office in Ukraine. But in view of the difficult humanitarian situation in the country, he also looks forward to the coming months with concern: "In order for us to continue providing aid on the ground, support is still urgently needed."