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Civil society provides support in times of crisis


Moldova, with a population of just over 2.6 million inhabitants, has so far received over 300,000 refugees from Ukraine, out of them some 100,000 choose to stay in Moldova, others continued their journey to Romania and other countries. “It has turned out that our hopes for the efforts of the major aid actors have been dashed during this first month. In practice, it is the small, local civil society organisations, such as those that IM supports, that do the big job”, says Silvia Apostol, IM’s regional manager for Eastern Europe.

Of the over 100,000 refugees staying in Moldova at this point in time (numbers from from last week), only some 5,000 are housed in state refugee shelters (of a total of 10,000 places available). At the shelters they have a place to stay and they receive some food and other items. However, it is not really possible to leave in a shelter, unless for a few days – as there is neither privacy nor suitable conditions for families. Some shelters are already being closed as they don’t correspond to basic standards. The refugees who decided to stay for longer period of time, usually stay with private individuals, which has also meant that they were left out to goodwill of their hosts and the communities. The support was impressive in the beginning of the crisis, however, in time, it has become more and more difficult to mobilise local resources. The majority of refugees are in desperate need of food, warm clothes, hygiene products and medicines.

IM’s partners in the country and other civil society organisations have quickly had to restructure their operations to help in the acute crisis. The support from the large organisations and the government has not yet been able to be channeled in an effective way, says Silvia Apostol, IM’s regional manager for Eastern Europe:

– The large organizations have not been present in Moldova before, so they do not have enough people in place to be able to act in the crisis. Several of them are currently opening offices and hiring staff, but they have bureaucratic structures which takes time to deploy and start implementation. IM has been in place for many years in the region and has been able to act directly.

Cash support is delayed

Discussions are currently underway about the refugees being able to receive a monthly subsidy from the state, but this has only begun to be implemented in parts of the country and only certain categories of people are given priority. Until it is in place, civil society organizations work day and night to cover the basic needs of the people. Last weekend, for example, IM’s partner Katalyst organized an event in a park in Chisinau where they handed out 200 food packages. More than 700 people showed up, indicating that the needs are enormous. This weekend, Katalyst prepared 500 packages of food, which they distributed in three distribution points.

– Our partners have worked continuously over the past month by fundraising and ensuring that the help is distributed to those in need. Working with humanitarian aid is very time-consuming and resource-intensive for civil society, which basically does not work with that kind of effort at this scale. Everyone is exhausted, but there is no time for rest, says Silvia.

Money – the best way to contribute

Civil society’s efforts have made it clear which forms of emergency care work best. Several partners talk about the problems that arise when people choose to donate used clothes.

– One of our partners in Ukraine said that it took them two weeks just to sort the contents of one truck filled with clothes. Many of the clothes were broken or for the wrong season and impossible to use, says Silvia.

It is very time consuming to sort, wash and transport clothes. The very best way to assist people in need is therefore to contribute with money so that local organizations can buy what is needed most.

Targeted support for particularly vulnerable groups

The special skills that civil society organizations have through their regular activities come in handy even during the crisis. Several of IM’s partners in Moldova work with rights for people with disabilities and it is a group that is being hit extra hard right now.

– Our partners’ CDPD and AOPD are involved in assessing the availability of state refugee shelters. Their inspection shows that there are currently no placement solutions for people in wheelchairs. They are therefore now holding meetings with various state officials, to find solutions to the problem, Silvia says.

At the insistence of civil society, a separate working task on supporting persons with disabilities during crisis, including also donors and authorities, was just created.

The organization Motivatie distributes food packages, hygiene products (including adult diapers) and medicines to refugees with disabilities, as well as to mothers and children who are placed in families in rural areas. They also organise free transportation from the border for people with disabilities and free psychological help for people traumatized in the war.

Our partner FEDRA, via the organisation SOS Autism, runs the only specialized shelter in Moldova providing support to families having children with autism.

– It has turned out that our hopes for the efforts of the major aid actors have been dashed during this first month. In practice, it is the small, local civil society organizations, such as those that IM supports, that do the big job. And I think it will continue like this for at least one or a couple of months until more organizations get their processes in place, says Silvia.

By: Malin Kihlström