As the war in Ukraine continues to shock the world, and more and more Ukrainians are fleeing the country for safety, what is happening on the ground in Romania and Moldova as thousands of refugees arrive? What are Children on the Edge doing to help?
In March, our Chief Operating Officer, Ben Wilkes visited Romania to see first hand what was happening on the ground and find out how we are best placed to help refugees fleeing conflict in Ukraine.
Ben witnessed how people in Siret and Iasi were responding to arrivals with a comprehensive and efficient operation, catering for nearly every need that refugee families have as they transit through the country.
Whether it be beds, food or medical supplies, or advice on border crossing paperwork and onward travel, the system in place is currently coping, and run by an incredibly generous and motivated collaboration of individuals, organisations and authorities.
The border in Siret, Romania is set up to receive and welcome Ukrainian refugees
At the border in Siret, volunteers and officials warmly welcome refugees on the border, with taxis and coaches available to take refugees onwards. Medical services are available and a plethora of food stalls are offering free hot food to anyone arriving. Refugees can stay nearby in fully catered tents while they wait for assistance with paperwork. In Iasi, large transit centres with hundreds of beds are also available to refugees, most of whom stay for a couple of nights before moving on.
Donations of food, blankets, nappies and other essential items are being generously provided by local people or businesses; and the centres we visited have more ‘stuff’ than they can use at present. The situation is very fluid however, and needs are changing every day.
Stocks of donations at a transit centre in Iasi
Speaking with local partners in Romania and Moldova, it has quickly become clear that what is vital at this stage, is that the people and organisations currently hosting and providing for refugees are fully resourced with funds to respond to needs as they emerge.
The refugees arriving into Romania and Moldova right now are in transit, moving onwards into Europe. While in Iasi and Siret, this first wave of refugees are currently being supported by volunteers and donations, there is a natural potential for momentum to wane and finance to run short. This could change as more people arrive from Ukraine, who may lack the capacity to get further into Europe, or need to stay closer to home.
Our COO Ben Wilkes said, “What we need to focus on is the stark reality that this is a hugely volatile situation, it’s evolving on a day by day and case by case basis. What refugees needed last week isn’t what they need now, and next week the landscape will change again”.
HOW ARE CHILDREN ON THE EDGE HELPING?
We are an organisation that works hand in hand with trusted local partners, and it is these partners that now need our support more than ever. They need the resources to quickly identify and respond to the needs of Ukrainian refugees as they arise day by day. They need support to cover the naturally emerging gaps left by the broader sweep of the international aid effort.
So, we are now supporting our partners in Moldova to provide three transit centres for refugees. These include a two-house transit centre in Tudora - on the border of Odessa, 25 beds at the Speranta centre in Chișinău, and a larger local hub with over 180 spaces, further inland in Vatici. All three centres are linked up, with transport provided where necessary between them as refugees travel through the country.
We have also set up a dedicated, flexible emergency fund so our partners in Romania can respond to the needs of the most marginalised refugees as they emerge. This emergency fund is already being put into action to fill the gaps emerging in the aid effort. We’ve furnished a house in Siret, which is now housing a Ukrainian mother with her five children, and made an apartment available in Iasi for a woman who has fled Ukraine at eight months pregnant, and could not move on further into Europe. We are also filling gaps in food provision at a larger transit centre in Iasi.
Our partners are coordinating the distribution of hygiene products including soaps and shampoos to refugees in Romania. We are grateful to our friends at The Body Shop who were able to provide the necessary products so this could happen.
At the start of April, we also began supporting 43 children from Ukraine without parental care who arrived in to the Iasi region after their group home in Dnipro was bombed. Our partners have been working with the Child Protection Department in Romania to house these children, along with their carers in a centre in Iasi and have recruited a social worker, volunteer coordinator and are in the process of recruiting a Ukrainian speaking child psychologist so that these children can be properly supported and cared for in Romania.
Thank you to all our supporters and donors who have made this possible.
Children on the Edge have always gone where the need is greatest, and for over 30 years have been committed to reacting nimbly and flexibly, to reach those people who are overlooked by larger organisations and the international media. This is what started our journey in Romania and Moldova at the very beginning in 1990, and is where the need is taking us in Romania and Moldova today.
As the situation evolves day by day, we will continue to use this fund to meet the needs identified by our partners; always supporting those who are most on the edge.
If you'd like to support our work in Romania and Moldova, you can donate here >>