Lilia and her family, like over 533,000 other internally displaced people (IDPs) have enrolled in UNHCR’s cash assistance programme funded by donors including the EU Humanitarian Aid.
Lilia, a 35-year-old mother of one, and her family were determined to stay in Kostiantynivka, a small industrial town in eastern Ukraine, despite heavy fighting since the very beginning of the war. But, as fierce shelling and bombardment continued almost daily, they were forced to flee.
‘It was becoming too dangerous. Sirens were howling every day, and the frontline moved closer to our town. Our daughter, Angelina was extremely scared and exhausted from hiding in a cold corridor every night when the sirens would start’.
After leaving their hometown, the family relies heavily on the cash assistance provided by UNHCR, with support from donors like the EU Humanitarian Aid. With a large influx of displaced people in Vinnytsia – more than 50,000 people – there is little opportunity to secure new jobs.
‘We were left in a situation when not only we were leaving all we had behind, but we could no longer provide for 15-year-old daughter Angelina as well as for 87-years old husband’s grandmother whose health has been very poor in recent months,’ continues Lilia.
Amidst increasing fighting, the family packed their most essential belongings and took an evacuation bus to Kramatorsk and then an evacuation train to the city of Vinnytsia in central Ukraine, where they found shelter in one of the students’ dorms.
‘Thanks to UNHCR support, we can buy medicines for grandmother and sweets for Angelina. This support is critical for us,’ said Lilia.
The war has uprooted the lives of millions of people in Ukraine. For many, finding a dignified source of income has become very difficult given the deteriorating economic situation in the country.
To support the Government of Ukraine’s efforts in providing social support for displaced people in Ukraine, UNHCR has immediately rolled out its multi-purpose cash support programme.
“In the first months of the war, when millions of people were fleeing within a very short period of time, it was very important to quickly launch this cash assistance programme. Having left their homes, their belongings and their jobs behind in order to get to safety, people arrived without anything but the clothes on their bodies and – in the best case – their ID documents and a toothbrush,” says Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR’s Representative in Ukraine “
Upon reaching safety, millions of people have found themselves short of even the most basic things.
“We couldn’t even take large bags with us,” Lilia explains “Vadym carried his grandma in his arms the whole journey as she has issues with mobility, he could not carry anything else. When summer came, we had to buy new clothes for the whole family, as we had nothing for this season.”
The family received some donated clothes from volunteers, but for Lilia this was difficult to accept.
“You cannot imagine how humiliating it is, after we had everything to become so dependent, to go and ask for something – to ask for clothes or for food”.
UNHCR’s multi-purpose cash programme is one way to give displaced people the capacity and dignity to purchase the most essential items they need, at a given point in time. It thereby not only helps people meet their basic needs, but also helps reduce the risk of exploitation of people who have become socio-economically vulnerable and dependent due to their forced displacement. The programme, which was set up in record-time in March 2022, provides displaced people with UAH 2,220 per person per month, during a 3-month period. The assistance is normally used to cover basic needs such as accommodation, food, medicines and hygiene items.
This programme is aligned with and complementary to the Government’s and the Ministry of Social Policy’s social assistance programmes.
‘UNHCR works to support the Government of Ukraine in addressing the humanitarian and social needs of people impacted by the war. We want to make sure our programmes, like multipurpose cash, complement and reinforce the national programmes. This is key for sustainability and national leadership of the response. UNHCR therefore signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Social Policy on 19 Apriland worked with the Office of the President of Ukraine to design our programme in a way which achieves this goal,’ said Karolina Lindholm Billing.
UNHCR identifies people who qualify for the cash assistance through referrals from the Ministry of Social Policy and by enrolling displaced people with specific vulnerabilities. Enrollment is taking place in Cherkasy, Kirovograd, Lviv, Poltava oblasts and mobile brigades in Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia, and Kyiv oblast of Ukraine, with locations in the east and centre of the country prioritized. A priority is to ensure that the most vulnerable people are supported, through protection pre-screening at all enrolment centres to identify single-headed households, older persons, foster families caring for unaccompanied or separated children and others with specific needs like disabilities.
As of today, UNHCR has enrolled over 516,000 displaced people for multi-purpose cash assistance and processed payments for 350,035 individuals. Among IDPs enrolled, 76 per cent are women and children and the majority from eastern and central oblasts of Ukraine.
Lilia and her family are among millions of displaced people who long to return to their home as soon as the fighting stops.
“Sometimes, I wake up in the morning and I almost believe that when I open my eyes, I will see myself in my dear home,” says Lilia. “I truly hope one day it will not be just a dream, but a reality.”