Following a visit to Ukraine, Poland and Slovakia, Alfonso Herrera, Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for more support for the millions of people who have been affected by the war.
“As a Latin American, I know how important it is to come together as a community and show solidarity with those who are suffering. Just as we face our own challenges and work to support each other in the Americas, it is critical that we extend that same solidarity and spirit of compassion to those suffering in Ukraine, and in other parts of the world. By standing together and taking action, we can make a real difference in the lives of those affected by war and displacement,” said Herrera.
In Ukraine, Herrera visited a shelter hosting internally displaced Ukrainians and met with families whose homes had been badly damaged or completely destroyed by shelling. He witnessed first-hand the work of UNHCR, local authorities and partners in providing protection services such as psychosocial support and legal aid, as well as essential household items and housing assistance, including prefabricated housing units for people whose homes have been destroyed, helping them recover and enabling them to stay on their own land, in their community.
In Ukraine, UNHCR is also providing cash assistance and other forms of support to people severely impacted, under the leadership of the Government. However, as the war continues and many millions remain displaced, humanitarian needs are immense within Ukraine and in neighbouring countries that have been generously hosting refugees for more than a year.
“The stories I heard of loss, separation and hardship were truly heart-breaking. While their strength and resilience is astounding, those displaced and affected by this war need our support. Nobody chooses to flee their home, and whether here in this region, the Americas, or elsewhere, people whose lives have been uprooted by war and conflict need safety and dignity while they are displaced, and ultimately the opportunity to return home, in peace and security,” Herrera said.
In Poland, Herrera visited two shelters near the border with Ukraine, where he spoke with refugees with disabilities and heard from women and children about the challenges they face in exile, including accessing employment and education. He also visited the Zustricz Foundation in Krakow, an NGO run by Ukrainians to help their compatriots. There, occupational therapy activities for children and adults help refugees address mental health challenges caused by the trauma of the war and displacement.
Similarly in Slovakia, mothers of young children spoke to Herrera about difficulties they face in accessing childcare and opportunities to rebuild their lives. He was also able to observe some of the psycho-social support programmes being provided to refugees, including a children’s workshop focused on mental health and psychological support, and a theatre masterclass for refugee university students to encourage them to play an active role in their own personal development, and that of the host community.
More than a year since the onset of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, nearly one-third of Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes. Over five million people remain displaced within Ukraine, and millions more have fled the country as refugees across Europe.
Alfonso Herrera, one of the most renowned actors in Latin America, was appointed Goodwill Ambassador for UNHCR in September 2020. Best known for his roles in theatre, film, and television, such as Ozark, Sense8, and Rebelde, Herrera has been supporting UNHCR since 2016 with the launch of the #ConLosRefugiados campaign.