Back from Ukraine, Karine Meaux, Head of the International Solidarity Department of Fondation de France, gives an update on the local situation and the actions undertaken.
You have just returned from a field mission in Ukraine. How can you describe the situation there?
This is our fourth mission in the area since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine last February. After visits to Poland, Romania and Moldova, we went this time to the Western part of Ukraine, in the vicinity of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk and Uzhgorod, areas relatively far from the fighting. The estimates show that there are 7 to 8 million internally displaced people, which is huge. Now, after 4 months of conflict, Ukrainians who had fled their country are starting to return. The pressure on reception centers and housing will increase because many homes have been destroyed in the East and South of the country. On the operational side, local actors provide 99% of the aid: organizations and many volunteers. However, the vast majority of the funds mobilized go to UN agencies. For its part, Fondation de France has chosen to prioritize aid to existing local structures in the field ; two thirds of the funds committed have been allocated to them at this stage, the remaining supporting European structures operating on the ground.
What type of actions does Fondation de France support?
Our two main priorities are humanitarian aid and the defense of human rights. Thanks to Operation Solidarity Ukraine, which has raised more than 14 million euros, we currently support 32 projects, half of which are in Ukraine. The purpose of this trip was precisely to meet the organizations we are working with, to see which difficulties they are facing and how the actions are carried out. We also wanted to identify the needs that remain to be covered. We went to the Arena stadium in Lviv, which has been transformed into a vast dispatch center co-managed by the East Europe Foundation. We went to a site of Eco villages where people made vulnerable by the war are accommodated to find respite. In Oujhorod we met volunteers of the Carpathian Foundation who take care of the reception center where Ukrainian and Roma families are accommodated. We also support Magnolia, a Ukrainian association that informs and investigates about the disappearance of children. It has received as many calls in two months as in the previous 20 years! Some families have been broken up and are still looking for their children.
What new needs have you been able to identify and how do you plan to address them?
There is a lot to do! In the immediate outlook, we are working with the committee members on activity projects for children who are on school vacations. We need to provide them with time to catch up on their schooling, psychological support, but also lighter activities that will allow them to return to their childhood and to integrate into their new host territory, in preparation for the new school year. We will also continue to support the professional integration of women and continue our mobilization to allow the most disadvantaged people, such as minorities or the elderly, disabled, to be welcomed and kept safe. Another issue will be the housing for displaced persons or those who return to their country but no longer have a place to live. We will probably support rehabilitation/reconstruction aid projects, carefully selecting projects to avoid the pitfall of building temporary housing too quickly, in which people will stay for years and which will quickly become unhealthy. Finally, we are also going to strengthen support for refugees in France, approximately 100,000 have arrived from Ukraine, and particularly for students, researchers and artists.
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