With the first missiles attacking Kyiv in the early morning on 24 February, Iryna realized that she had to leave. Her 31-year-old daughter was born with cerebral palsy and needs a special care which is impossible to provide when sirens go off several times per day, announcing a possible missile attack. 

Iryna, her daughter and son, as well as her elderly father, found refuge in Vinnytsia Region that hosted over 170,000 of displaced Ukrainians — one of the largest shares of displaced Ukrainians. The family found a temporary home in a dormitory of an educational facility, where another 250 people live. 

Iryna and her family found a temporary home in Vinnytsia. Photo: IOM/Gema Cortes

IOM teams and partner NGOs are working round-the-clock to improve living conditions of displaced people, in particular, helping vulnerable families, as the one of Iryna’s. 

Meet three organizations, rooted in the local communities, who help us ensure that no one is left behind when we deliver humanitarian response. 

"We know what it takes to start all over again"

The NGO “Spilna Sprava” (United Course) was created seven years ago by activists who had experienced the hardship of displacement themselves due to the armed conflict in Donetsk and Luhansk regions. 

"We have been internally displaced since 2014 and have come a long way, so we understand the problems of IDPs like no other," said Yurii Zykov,  the head of the NGO, said. "We have experience and are ready to share it with those in need." 

Activists in Vinnytsia mobilized efforts to support displaced people fleeing the war. Photo: IOM

The NGO works in 34 communities hosting IDPs in Vinnytsia Region and helps to develop humanitarian response based on needs of displaced people by coordinating the lists of beneficiaries with the regional and local authorities, and facilitating the distribution of assistance, provided by IOM. 

“The war is having the most devastating impact on children. We had a little toy turtle in the office — someone left it a long time ago. The IDP family came with a child, a girl grabbed the turtle and hugged it so hard ... The war should not take away the childhood of our children," said Victoriia Movchan, the chair of the NGO.

From Youth Festivals to War Response 

Before the war, another NGO “Top Youth” focused on youth development projects. Responding to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, it has reoriented its activities and supported IOM in the implementation of its cash programme in 12 communities in Vinnytsia Region. In the first three months of the war, IOM provided cash to over 72,000 persons in Vinnytsia, Zakarpattia and Chernivtsi regions, prioritizing the most vulnerable groups — single-parent households, families with many children, elderly persons and people with disabilities. 

Registration for the IOM cash programme. Photo: Top Youth

"We receive many calls from affected people who say that they limited their spending to all possible extent. But how can they address their children’s needs? Cash assistance is a very important tool to provide people access to goods and services that they need,Liudmyla, the NGO’s staff member, who manages a special hotline, says. 

The NGO works very closely with volunteers in each community which helps to reach people even in remote areas. 

Giving Hope

With its 15-year of experience and expertise in human rights, “Spring of Hope” is one of the IOM’s long-standing partners. The NGO has been actively working in the area of human trafficking prevention, providing reintegration assistance to the affected people.

Since the end of February, the organization supports humanitarian response, providing IDPs with hygiene items, food, information counselling and psychosocial assistance. It also helps IOM to deliver protection assistance to the most vulnerable war-affected people. As of the end of May, about 3,000 IDPs, 1,200 of whom are women, were supported by the “Spring of Hope”.

“Since 2014, we have experience in psychosocial adaptation of internally displaced persons, reintegration, economic adaptation, including support for micro-entrepreneurship. Our team includes internally displaced people, so understanding this tragic experience  from within, we are building a more systematic assistance,” the NGO’s head Alla Studilko noted. 

NGO "Spring Home" is one of the IOM's long-standing partners. Photo: Spring of Home

In its office, the “Spring of Hope” has also created a special space where children can play and learn crafts. Through art classes, they are able to overcome their severe stress. Olena (name changed) often brings her daughter and son to these sessions. The woman and her family fled to Vinnytsia from Kostiantynivka in Donetsk Region. They are survivors of a missile attack which claimed 52 lives at the railway station in Kramatorsk on 8 April. The family was also waiting for their evacuation train when they heard an explosion. 

"We were saved by being inside,” Olena recalls. “Eleven people were waiting for the train next to us. It was a couple with two children, a woman with a girl, and five other children whose parents stayed at home and sent them with a friend to a safer place. They all just went outside, they wanted to buy something. They no longer exist. Nobody…”

According to the IOM latest survey, needs in mental health and psychosocial support are growing in Ukraine. Among all respondents, 13 per cent mentioned that they or someone in their family needed psychological counselling. The need was indicated twice as often by respondents who reported that their homes had been damaged by military attacks (23.5%). 

Written by Iryna Titarenko 

SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions