Source: Depaul Ukraine
Global homelessness charity Depaul International has warned that tensions need to be de-escalated in order to prevent a humanitarian disaster which would be life-changing for hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people.
The charity warns that in the event of war, thousands will lose their homes and face humanitarian catastrophe as they flee forthcoming military action. Media reports suggest that there are currently around 140,000 Russian troops amassed on the Ukrainian border.
The number of homeless people in Ukraine is unknown, as the government does not keep accurate and up to date records of people who are on the streets. Yet, with bitterly cold winters, leaving vulnerable susceptible to hyperthermia, heart attacks and frostbite, and difficulties accessing healthcare, it is estimated that thousands are dying every year. In the city of Odessa alone, last year there were nearly 800 'unaccounted for' deaths.
Depaul Ukraine has been operating in Kharkov, Kiev, Odessa and Ivano-Frankivsk regions of the country since 2007 on long-term projects, including shelter and security for single mothers, safe hostel accommodation for rough sleepers and skills-based training. They also help hundreds battle a freezing winter, with emergency medical assistance, food, and heated tents, to allow them to warm up through the night in temperatures as low as -10 degrees. In light of escalating tensions, the charity is also making contingency plans, including organising emergency shelters, legal aid, food and supporting humanitarian corridors in the event of widespread displacement. They hope these efforts will prevent a sudden growth in homelessness should conflict ensue.
Group CEO of Depaul International, Matthew Carter, said: "The international community must act swiftly and decisively to de-escalate tensions otherwise we are days away from a humanitarian disaster. Homelessness is a daily reality for thousands in Ukraine, who are suffering from extreme poverty, the impact of COVID and a harsh winter. War will be the tipping point into a humanitarian disaster on a scale we haven't seen for some time unless we act now. I would urge all parties to come to a peaceful solution in the interest of the thousands of lives at risk."
Director of the Kharkov branch of Depaul Ukraine, Anka Skorik, said: "We have witnessed the impact of conflict before - we know what we are heading for - and it's frightening. Following the invasion in 2014 Kharkiv struggled to support the thousands displaced and this will be on an even bigger scale. Depaul Ukraine worked 24 hours a day to help displaced people with emergency shelter, food and medical supplies - this will be no different. We are already seeing the impact tensions are having on people's mental health, as well as living conditions deteriorating as the economy suffers. We will continue to support the people of Ukraine in any way we can, and hope for a peaceful resolution."
Following the conflict in 2014 there were reports of 1.5 million people being internally displaced. See: www.unhcr.org/ua/en/internally-displaced-persons .
Tensions have continued to bubble over the past eight years and the people of Ukraine have suffered the consequences, as the economy failed to recover. Many who fled the initial fighting have faced the threat of destitution and homelessness and the Covid pandemic has exacerbated the problem.
Chair of Trustees for Depaul Ukraine, Father Vitaliy Novak CM, said: "I am a proud Ukrainian, and since independence we have seen a growth in dignity, a blossoming democracy, we are growing our economy. Human life is the most important - we are working hard every day to rebuild our society. Organisations are pulling together to tackle issues such as homelessness. An invasion would destroy the future we are building and be a tragic step backwards - we need to act swiftly to prevent this - I call out to the international community for action, and pray for a peaceful solution for the people of Ukraine."
If you would like to support Depaul Ukraine's life-saving work with homeless and displaced people, please donate via Depaul International's website: https://int.depaulcharity.org/