UK charities in Europe ‘prepared’ in case Ukrainian refugee influx continues

An international disaster relief charity that helps Ukrainians in Eastern Europe says it is ready to step up operations if the influx of refugees continues.

ShelterBox has spent weeks helping Ukraine, Poland and Moldova since the Russian invasion caused millions to flee for their safety.

The charity said it expects the number of people reaching Ukraine’s borders to increase as the war continues, despite reports that many have already started to return home.

Steph Christensen, a member of ShelterBox’s response team in the Moldovan capital Chisinau, told the Palestinian Authority news agency: “I think all the aid organizations here recognize that if the situation were to change drastically or last a long time, they would begin to need more and more support from the humanitarian community to continue.

“We know that things can change quickly and we are preparing, if necessary, to be able to evolve in a significant way.”

Ms Christensen said ShelterBox has provided thousands of mattresses to most of the roughly 10% of refugees in so-called collective centers – such as schools and leisure centres, where their details and needs are recorded – and worked to get help, including shelter kits. across the border.

But she said the situation was “complex and constantly changing”.

She said: “I spoke to a woman (in Chisinau) yesterday who fled with her four young children, (it was) really just a very emotional conversation, having to pack some clothes, that’s all that they were able to bring with them.

“It’s incredibly stressful leaving family behind and not knowing what’s next – not knowing, once you’ve crossed the border, where you’re going, what you’re doing.

“And a lot of things we’ve heard are people have had to quit their jobs so they don’t have a stable income anymore. But then there’s a question of how long are you staying here? Can you find a local job here?

“Overall, everyone wants to be able to go home. Most people aren’t looking to settle, long-term, somewhere else – everyone we spoke to just wants to go home, so it’s all up in the air.

Steph Christensen, a member of the ShelterBox response team, is currently helping the humanitarian effort in Moldova (Tess Widdifield/PA)

She said the Moldovan government is “doing incredibly well” with the number of refugees it has taken in in recent weeks, but said: “At the moment it is difficult to predict where things will go and we are ready if things get worse to be there to help. these people when they need it, and really keeping our options open.

The 33-year-old also hailed the “incredible” generosity of people who supported the humanitarian effort.

She said: “I’ve seen time and time again around the world, when you donate to ShelterBox, the incredible impact of giving someone a safe place to sleep for the night, possessions when they’ve lost everything – it really is one of the most amazing gifts you can give someone.

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Mary I. Bruner