Estonia supports UNHCR global operations to empower refugees in times of crisis

More than ever, UNHCR relies on generous donors like the Government of Estonia to provide life-saving help and protection to a record-high number of people forced to flee their homes.

Bangladesh. Rohingya girls education and dreams for the future © UNHCR/Roger Arnold

Urgent humanitarian needs coupled with a growing funding gap is challenging UNHCR’s responses globally, resulting in uncertainty for many refugees. More than ever, UNHCR relies on generous donors like the Government of Estonia to provide life-saving help and protection to a record-high number of people forced to flee their homes.

Estonia supports protection of displaced people worldwide

As of August 2018, UNHCR has received more than USD half a million from the Estonian Government. Of the total funding received, Estonia has earmarked donations to people affected by the Myanmar, Ukraine and Syria situations. The majority of the funding (USD 235.849) has been allocated in support of UNHCR’s response to the Ukraine Situation. The total contribution also includes USD 118.500 in unearmarked funding,that provides UNHCR critical flexibility to channel resources to where it is most needed.

 UNHCR is grateful for steady and predictable donors like the Government of Estonia. In addition to being the largest per capita donor to UNHCR Ukraine operation, Estonia has in 2018 donated more unearmarked funds than ever before, supporting UNHCR’s efforts to respond quickly and more efficiently to emergencies and underfunded situations. Estonia’s funding speak volumes of the country’s dedication to empower refugees and improve the livelihoods of forcibly displaced people everywhere”, says Henrik Nordentoft, UNHCR Regional Representative for Northern Europe.

On 24 May 2018, President Kersti Kaljulaid witnessed firsthand the work carried out by UNHCR in eastern Ukraine, where the Agency provides aid by the crossing points at Maiorsk and to a community center in Chasiv Yar. During the visit, UNHCR highlighted the important work being done by community centers and civil society organizations such as the one in Chasiv Yar, that provide a wide range of services to vulnerable displaced families, as well as families still residing in non-governmental controlled areas and those who still travel to government controlled areas to access assistance and services.

Destruction and suffering in Ukraine: The story of Svetlana

In Ukraine, 1.5 million people are internally displaced, including close to 800.000 elderly persons and 50.000 persons with disabilities. Many live in close proximity to the frontline in Eastern Ukraine and struggle to access pensions, healthcare and social security payments.

Bed-ridden and suffering from cancer, Svetlana Shuko lies in bed in the village of Starohnativka, eastern Ukraine. © UNHCR/Anastasia Vlasova


Svetlana Shuko is just one among many vulnerable displaced people inside Ukraine. The 78-year-old woman spent decades working at the local coal plant in Volnovakha, Donetsk. She earned a pension that she hoped would support her retirement. But living with cancer and barely able to leave her residence in the shattered frontline town of Starohnativka, she can go months without receiving it. Shelling has devastated the area since 2014 and gets so intense at night that vibrations wake her from her sleep. Svetlana must visit the pension office every three months to prove her identity, but the cost and restricted mobility makes it extremely difficult.

With the donations received from countries like Estonia, UNHCR and local partner organisation Proliska ensures that Svetlana receives assistance in the form of medical treatment, heating for her home, cooking equipment, and easier access to the pension office.

Estonia as a donor to UNHCR

Estonia has provided annual donations to UNHCR since 2008. Estonia’s funding has increased substantially in recent years, reaching record high USD 750.000 in 2017. In 2018, Estonia has significantly increased its unearmarked funding to UNHCR, while the country continues to donate earmarked contributions to UNHCR operations in some of the most desperate humanitarian crises, including the Syria, Ukraine, and Myanmar situations.