Story
12 Jul 2022
By: Iryna Titarenko

Five months into full-scale war, access to necessities — water, food, a comfortable bed, a refrigerator, a washing machine, and the Internet — remains challenging for millions of displaced people in Ukraine. The International Organization for Migration (IOM), with the support of donors and in cooperation with local authorities and civil society organizations, is working around the clock to ensure decent living conditions in collective centres for IDPs and host communities.

The road to nowhere

Marianna, together with her husband and three children, also survived shelling by missiles and “Grad” systems in their native Kharkiv. They fled the city on the 46th day since the start of hostilities. The woman remembers how they helped their neighbours to hide from the rain of missiles. The family lived on the basement floor, and many residents from the upper floors sought shelter downstairs.

"When you think of your needs in an air conditioner and a refrigerator, you start to think of people who are hiding in a basement without water or food... Sometimes, it is embarrassing to ask for such things."

Marianna with her husband and three children fled Kharkiv on the 46th day since the start of invasion. IOM/Gema Cortes

"We dismantled all the furniture and used it to close the windows. Instead of furniture, we put blankets, bedspreads, and everything we had on the floor. We housed 15 people in a two-room apartment, and all of them came at night and knocked when the shelling began. I remember the day when I hid in a corner, holding my one-year-old daughter Sonia next to me, and struggling not to scream," Marianna recalls.

When an entire section of a neighbouring building got destroyed by a missile, the family decided to leave. They headed to Chernivtsi, but did not make it before the curfew. Finally, they found shelter in a collective centre for IDPs in Vinnytsia.

We chose Vinnytsia by chance

Before the start of the war, Dmytro was successfully running his own business, but everything changed dramatically overnight. The family did not want to leave their native Kharkiv. "If it was not for my three-year-old son, we probably would not have gone anywhere," the man explains.

Already after they left, the roof of their house was damaged by the explosive wave. Fortunately, the building itself remained intact. The displaced family arrived in Vinnytsia with a single bag filled with children's things and winter clothes for adults. "I have two or three T-shirts that need to be washed often, and we need to clean children's clothes even more often," says the man. Missing Kharkiv, the family is trying to settle in a new place, and Dmytro wants to restart his own business, on a smaller scale so far.

"We arrived with one bag. But what could we put inside?"

Dmytro and his family found a temporary home in the collective centre for IDPs in Vinnytsia. IOM/Gema Cortes

"Without help of our neighbours, we would not had gotten out of that hell"

Yulia is raising three children by herself, including a daughter with Down syndrome. When a shell hit the neighbouring yard, killing her neighbour, the woman realized that she had to flee for safety. She did not have a private transportation means and the public transport stopped working, therefore the family decided to reach the closest settlement on foot. Already on the way out of the village, they met their neighbours — a couple with six children who were packing their belongings into their minibus. 

"When they found out that we were going to walk dozens of kilometres, without thinking twice, they offered to go with them. They began to take their things out of the car: a stroller, a microwave oven, suitcases with things to make space for us. Without the help of our neighbours, I am not sure if we would had gotten out of that hell," says Yulia.

Two families reached Vinnytsia Region and settled in a small village. When Yulia found out that their house was destroyed, she could not hold her tears. Taking care of children helps Yulia to maintain stability, although it is currently impossible to plan their future life.

Creating decent conditions for people is a priority for IOM

In the first, the most difficult days of displacement, Yulia's family received food, personal hygiene items and financial assistance for setting up temporary accommodation from IOM’s implementing partner, the local NGO and "Spring of Hope”. In addition, the woman was assisted with the registration for cash assistance from the UN agency and received advice on submitting an application for compensation for the destroyed house.

To address the most urgent needs of displaced persons, IOM provides communities and IDP accommodation centres with non-food items, washing machines, and dryers, kitchen sets, hygiene products, carrying out repairs of collective centres, and improving sanitary conditions.
 

IOM mobile teams work to improve sanitary conditions and access to high-quality water sources in collective centres for IDPs. IOM/Gema Cortes

Although conditions in temporary shelters are becoming more comfortable, the vast majority of displaced people are waiting for the opportunity to return home. According to the latest IOM report, more than 5.5 million displaced Ukrainians have returned to their homes in Ukraine, in particular, in the north of the country and in Kyiv. At the same time, the number of internally displaced persons remains high at over 6.2 million. 

SDG 1 - No Poverty
SDG 3 - Good Health and Well Being
SDG 16 - Peace Justice and Strong Institutions