As Russia’s invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, aid organizations are stepping up efforts to get much-needed relief supplies to people affected by the fighting, as well as the over 3.2 million refugees who have fled the nation since the crisis began.
Rzeszow, the largest city in southern Poland and around 100 kilometers from the Ukrainian border, has emerged as a regional humanitarian relief hub. Food, blankets, solar lights, warm clothes, beds, jerrycans, and plastic sheeting continue to arrive by road and air at a vast warehouse managed by the United Nations refugee agency, UNHCR, near the airport outside Rzezsow.
“All we’ve been doing is bringing more people into the country, bringing more support into the country, working with partners to make sure we can function efficiently, and doing what we can to help,” UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh said.
According to Saltmarsh, the organization has received “almost 300 million tons of donations” from the private sector in the last month and has been able to transport part of the humanitarian materials to Ukraine. The UNHCR has already dispatched 22 trucks with emergency supplies to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, which is not far from the Polish border. Lviv has been spared much of the devastation occurring further east, and has become the first port of call for many of refugees leaving the country.
Some of the aid delivered to the city has been unloaded and distributed there, according to Saltmarsh, but the rest is waiting for the security situation to improve so that humanitarian aid can reach the worst-affected areas of the country, such as Mariupol, the port city that has been besieged and subjected to punitive Russian attacks almost since the beginning of the war.
“Obviously, it is very concerning and poses a significant problem for the humanitarian community,” he continued.
Some of the migrants who arrived in Ukraine’s border nations on Thursday told of mounting despair in Ukrainian towns encircled and blasted by Russia’s troops.
“There is no water, electricity, food…children are weeping, it is freezing (there) and dangerous,” Irina Bogdaniuk, 24, from Sumy, eastern Ukraine, said after landing at Medyka, Poland’s border town. Bogdaniuk rummaged through her phone and displayed photos of damage in her city, including one of a slain citizen laying in a pool of blood in the middle of a street.
When feasible, some of the supplies arriving in Lviv are being delivered to other districts of Ukraine, according to a Red Cross representative in the city.
According to Anette Selmber-Andersen of the International Federation of the Red Cross, 400 tons of supplies have been sent to eastern Ukraine thus far. She stated that food is most desperately required in the country’s east, but that “strong demand for medecines” exists.
According to Selmer-Andersen, the need for psychosocial support services in Lviv was growing as the city’s population increased from 700,000 to almost a million in less than a month as a result of an inflow of individuals displaced by violent warfare elsewhere in Ukraine.
“The folks that come here have been through traumatic experiences and are frightened, terrified, and anxious,” she continued.
Aid organizations are also speeding up efforts to help the refugees who have fled Ukraine in the last three weeks, approximately half of them are youngsters.
Refugees arriving in neighboring countries today are “more fragile, in a more traumatized state” than those who arrived early in the war, according to UNHCR spokesperson Saltmarsh.
People in the area around the capital, Kyiv, were “devastated,” according to Kateryna Horiachko, who escaped.
“They lost their houses, all they had, relatives…there is nothing left for (us) to do except (become) refugees,” Horiachko, who landed in Suceava, Romania, on Thursday, explained.
Horiachko said her husband and parents were still in Ukraine, and she hoped to find a way to help them.
“The economy in Ukraine is also wrecked,” she said, adding that “people (are) now without employment, without money, and they need” assistance.
Svitlana Syichova told of the tremendous cruelty of Russian soldiers besieging her hometown after disembarking from a train that transported her from Zaporizhzhia, in southeast Ukraine, to Przemysl, Poland.
“They attacked the maternity facility, and pregnant ladies perished,” Syichova explained, tears welling up in her eyes. “Why are they torturing us like this?” “We have no idea what is going on.”