The humanitarian situation in Ukraine worsens day by day. According to UN estimates, more than six million people are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Riikka Mikkola, Senior Adviser at the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, answers questions on Finland’s assistance.
How is the humanitarian situation in Ukraine, Riikka Mikkola, Senior Adviser for Humanitarian Assistance?
“The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, ,UNCHR estimates that some 10 million people have been forced to leave their homes since the war started, and about 4 million of them have sought asylum outside Ukraine. Around 4.3 million children have been displaced, accounting for more than half of all children in Ukraine.
“It is estimated that as many as twelve million people will need humanitarian assistance in the near future.
“Civilians caught up in the midst of fighting are in the most vulnerable situation. With limited access to basic goods and services, one particular cause for concern is the approximately 80,000 women due to give birth within the next three months.
“As the situation becomes protracted, people fleeing will be in greater distress and more heavily reliant on external assistance. In addition, the risk of exploitation and human trafficking increases. It is unfortunately very likely that the number of such cases will rise.”
What kind of humanitarian assistance does Finland give?
“Finland channels its funds through UN agencies and the International Red Cross movement. We do not have any assistance projects of our own. The Finnish Red Cross has a reserve of emergency supplies, and it receives funding from the Ministry for Foreign Affairs so that it can use and replenish its supplies when and where required.
“So far, Finland has directed EUR 8.2 million of humanitarian funding to Ukraine via the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).
“In addition, Finland grants annual core funding to other organisations operating in Ukraine. For example, the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), has disbursed funding to Ukraine. Finland is among its ten largest donors. Flexible core funding has enabled organisations to react quickly to the situation.”
What has been done with Finland’s humanitarian funding?
“Those who have fled their homes receive help from the UNCHR both in Ukraine and in its neighbouring countries. Finland’s funding has been used to support internally displaced people in Ukraine with cash assistance and relief items. It has also been used to provide child protection services and psychosocial support.
“ICRC has delivered medicines and other supplies to hospitals in Mariupol, Odessa and Kyiv and to mobile clinics operating across Ukraine. It has also provided children with mental health services and psychosocial services. Explosive remnants of war are a major problem and a security threat in Ukraine. ICRC has sent in experts to clear contaminated areas and secure evacuation routes.
“The premises for the provision of assistance is that persons in the most vulnerable situation and to those who need support the most are prioritised. Finland emphasises the importance of respecting the rights of women, girls and persons with disabilities also in humanitarian crises. We have reminded actors that the potential specific needs of persons with disabilities must be taken into account in Ukraine’s case, too.”
Is aid reaching its destination?
“Fighting means that it is difficult to get assistance to and people out of certain areas in Ukraine. Sporadic fighting and attacks on infrastructure hinder deliveries of humanitarian assistance even outside the worst war zones, and in practise problems are encountered almost everywhere in Ukraine. Advocating for the safe and impartial delivery of humanitarian assistance and on respect for the principles of international humanitarian law has been challenging but the negotiations with the parties to the conflict remains active. In addition, sanctions make it more difficult to deliver aid to Eastern Ukraine.
“The difficulties in delivering aid aggravate humanitarian needs. Organisations must be able to trust that all parties to the conflict respect international humanitarian law and that their actions do not prevent humanitarian access. At the moment, safe delivery of aid is not possible everywhere in Ukraine. Organisations are responsible for their employees, and they cannot take excessive risks.”
Ukrainians are seeking asylum in neighbouring countries. Are these countries receiving any support to help those who have fled Ukraine?
“Nearly all of Ukraine’s neighbouring countries have requested assistance to be better able to address the needs of Ukrainian refugees. Many UN agencies and other humanitarian organisations have started or are in the process of starting their activities in Ukraine’s neighbouring areas.
As many of Ukraine’s neighbours are Member States of the European Union, the support they receive is different from many other crises. The European Commission has a Solidarity Platform for examining support needs in Member States following the crisis and for seeking solutions to them. One potential option is to facilitate the movement of persons enjoying temporary protection from one Member State to another. Moreover, the European Commission has the opportunity to help EU Member States financially in their response to the crisis.
Of Ukraine’s neighbours, Moldova is on the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) list of countries that may be granted humanitarian assistance from development cooperation funds. The European Commission granted Moldova EUR 5 million in humanitarian funding already in the early stages of the crisis.
There is a broader discussion going on about other ways to help Ukraine’s neighbouring countries in the current situation besides through humanitarian action.”
Unit for Communications on Sustainable Development and Trade