Distribution of hygene kits to civilians in Kostyantynivka, Ukraine. © ICRC

Ukraine: How basic food support becomes a lifeline for those escaping to safer places

Article 07 July 2022 Ukraine

For Svetlana, an elderly resident in the Donetsk region, living through the hostilities these last few months has been overwhelming. "I have no money at all so I can´t buy food, not even bread," she says as she chokes up with emotion while waiting for someone to help her carry boxes of food.

While many people have left frontline areas, some of the most vulnerable people, like Svetlana, have remained in their homes, with few options to overcome the impact of hostilities.

I have asked for help because there was nothing to live on and to continue with my rehabilitation,

- Svetlana, a resident of Kostyantynivka

Victoria waits for her husband to push along the bicycle on which she stacked the food parcels provided by the International Committee of the Red Cross and Ukrainian Red Cross Society.

Victoria from Kostyantynivka with food parcels received from ICRC.
Victoria from Kostyantynivka with food parcels received from ICRC. ICRC

"We had a good job. We worked with my husband in a private business. We gave people joy and satisfaction, with a lot of grateful customers throughout the Donetsk region and beyond. My husband is now unemployed. We have two children. We survive with the savings we made back when we still had plans for the future, including taking some holidays. Now everything has changed. We live one day at a time and hope there is no active fighting."

Kostyantynivka lies near the frontline. Air raid sirens blare nearly all day, alongside the sounds distant shelling. It now hosts many who have fled from neighboring villages after losing their jobs as a result of the hostilities, which makes it difficult to look after their basic needs. The conditions in Kostyantynivka are also very difficult, with rising prices for most goods.

Many people have fled to other cities with whatever they could carry, looking for a safer place. This has led the ICRC and the URCS to provide relief items to persons who have fled from Lysychansk, Popasna, Rubizhne, Mariupol and other regions, and who have found shelter in Dnipro, the fourth-largest city in Ukraine.

ICRC/UCRS teams delivering relief items at Kostyantynivka for about 2000 people affected by conflict.
ICRC/UCRS teams delivering relief items at Kostyantynivka for about 2000 people affected by conflict. ICRC

Yevgenia Aleksandrovna is a Ukrainian language teacher who fled from Sloviansk. She lost her apartment due to a missile attack at the end of May. "In my flat, all the doors and windows were totally destroyed. I was knocked out of my bed onto the floor. I thought I would never walk again," Evgenia recalls while she wipes away tears on her face.

When she was rescued and subsequently evacuated, she could only carry a small bag with a few clothes, a set of religious icons and a prayer bead, which she keeps close to her bed in a shared room with two other displaced women.

"In this shelter we have food three times a day, we don't sleep in basements, we have clean beds. Here we have electricity, water and I feel safe," she says with gratitude.

Yevgenia Aleksandrovna is in a shelter in Dnipro. She is a Ukranian language teacher who fled from Sloviansk.
Yevgenia Aleksandrovna is in a shelter in Dnipro. She is a Ukranian language teacher who fled from Sloviansk. ICRC

While moving in search of safer places, people escaping conflict areas have immediate needs for food, water, hygiene items, blankets, and other essential items.

"We are providing relief items directly to displaced civilians located in different places such as shelters and as well as to communities near the frontline," says Hussein Rasool, who coordinates the ICRC's delivery of food, hygiene and livelihood assistance by its team based in Dnipro.

"This is part of a much larger distribution of relief items all over Ukraine and hopefully this helps people to cope with a very difficult situation," Hussein adds.