How to Help the Ukrainian People
As the world rushes to help Ukraine, there are many different dimensions to the unfolding crisis. These include shelter, food, medicine, mental health, spiritual care, family reunification, childcare, elder care, refugee support, and many other issues that we take for granted in everyday life. However, as we have seen with Syria, the humanitarian impacts of war can stretch on for years.
Right now, not six months or a year from now, neighboring countries, NGOs, and the world community have to think about both short-term and long-term humanitarian goals.
In the short term, there are a number of reputable international NGOs that have extensive prior experience in responding to disasters. If you want to write a check immediately, the following are all respectable choices.
Catholic Relief Services (CRS)
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)
Also consider place-based giving. The neighboring countries of Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, and Moldova have been the primary providers of refugee assistance, with Poland receiving more than half. (Numbers at this stage are highly unreliable, but if just 10% of the population is displaced by the end of the war, over 4 million Ukrainians will need to find some form of temporary shelter).
Faith-based giving will be enormous, too. People may not realize it, but different denominations work closely together on humanitarian crises, and they often specialize, coordinate, and collaborate with each other in a non-sectarian manner.
Be cautious though! The challenge in the early stages is that there is a lot of missing information, misinformation, and disinformation. Events are moving so rapidly, and the war zone is so dangerous, that there is an in-built information lag that is unavoidable. During crises like this, self-appointed 48- or 72-hour experts emerge, lacking any historical context or real connection to events on the ground. On top of this, you have significant vested interests in the proceedings who will benefit from either amplifying the magnitude of the tragedy, focusing on a particular area at the expense of others, or focusing on a particular need at the expense of others.
It is terrible to say, but there are good and bad government officials, good and bad NGOs, incompetence, fraud, and mismanagement. Well-meaning start-ups can jump in, be overwhelmed, or simply be ignorant.
This is why it is important to do your homework before jumping in to support an organization you’ve never heard of before. You want to make every dollar count. Three resources that might be able to help with your research: Global Impact, the Center for Disaster Philanthropy, and Guidestar.
In the long-term, the international community must think about its objectives for supporting the Ukrainian refugees. Is it to help them return to Ukraine? Is it to help them move on to new homes elsewhere? In the Syrian crisis, the initial idea was to help the Syrians return home. Ten years later, Gazantiep is still home to half a million refugees who have settled in for the long-term. (Note, Syria’s total population was around 30 million, it is estimated that 20% fled the country).
As a result, regional and urban planning, mental health, PTSD, legal services (to recover property), economic recovery, housing, and other forms of continuing refugee assistance are going to be vital, long after the conflict has faded from the daily headlines.