24 February 2023 marks one year since the escalation of conflict in Ukraine.
More than 17 million people are in need within the country and millions more who have fled across borders.
The devastation of the last 12 months has affected every aspect of the lives of millions of people. Many are unable to return home and those still in the country are facing dire conditions with limited access to water, heat, health care and other essential services. Drops in temperature are compounding their everyday challenges.
As the conflict lengthens, a significant number of refugees have chosen to return to Ukraine, increasing the needs for assistance within the country. As this grueling escalation of conflict enters its second year, the impact on the mental health of people affected inside and outside of Ukraine is growing.
Working with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of Red Cross (ICRC) as well as several ground partners, the Singapore Red Cross (SRC) focused its humanitarian response over the past year on vulnerable Ukrainian communities: vulnerable children, persons living with rare diseases and refugees.
Our humanitarian aid spanned emergency relief distribution; medical supplies and first aid kits; support for Ukrainians in-country and across six neighbouring countries - Poland, Hungary, Lithuania, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania; psychosocial support to mothers and children; medical equipping for Ukraine’s largest children’s hospital; medical equipment and medicines for displaced persons living with rare diseases; water & sanitation; hygiene and essentials, and shelter. To support Ukrainian communities in winter, the SRC contributed towards the rebuilding of homes and the powering of ‘lighthouses’ with generators.
The SRC also conducted a series of Psychosocial Support (PSS) and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) training programmes to equip Ukrainian frontline responders and Lithuanian Red Cross's staff and volunteers with the relevant skills to enhance their ongoing support for displaced communities within and outside of Ukraine.
We share this video story and reflections of Ukrainian communities who have benefited from our aid, through the impactful initiatives (#CareforUkraine and #BundleofJoy) of our partner Fundacja POK. These meaningful programmes, and many others, were funded by the Singapore Red Cross, through the contributions by the People of Singapore, to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Response.
Of gratitude and resilience
A group of 10 ladies, five men and five children had been living in the basement of a building in Krarhov Oblast since the onset of the war. As the building has been completely destroyed by bombs and army aggression, they have no access to water. The supply of electricity is sporadic. With nowhere else to turn to, they have become like a family, caring for each other during these challenging times. Beyond caring for each other, the neighbours also care for stray dogs; they brought the dogs from the street to the basement to shelter them from the bombs.
Each person has received food, candles, medicine and a hygiene pack. Their gratitude was immense. Tears streamed down the face of the elderly lady as she embraced the volunteers. Those packs were the only items they have been given. They badly needed support.
"The dedicated volunteers have selflessly put their lives on the line when they deliver humanitarian aid to us. We hope God will bless and keep the volunteers safe," said one of the neighbours.
Alina, a 10-year-old student, misses her home in Militopol, Ukraine. Alina is appreciative of the care pack she received and appeals to people to continue supporting Ukraine.
"When the war struck, I left my home in Militopol (between Crimea and Mariupol). I have been struggling with this as I miss my home. We can't return home as the city is now under occupation. We believe there is nothing to return to as well. Initially, we thought we would be away for a short period. But it has been almost a year.
"I am thankful for the Panda Care Pack from the Care for Ukraine project. It was a surprise for me, when it came in time for Christmas. The food was good, but it was the Panda I had fallen in love with. I received not only this gift but also a great dose of happiness, which I’m very thankful for," said Alina, a 10-year old student.
Message to the World
"I hope the world will remember and support us. That is the only way that we and our defenders will win," said Alina.
Daria, 27, a mother of two boys, thanks volunteers and the Care for Ukraine project, which provides support for mothers and their newborns, and Panda Care Packs for children.
"Volunteers are like the rays of sunshine in my life. They bring light and hope into this poignant reality. I am thankful for the Care for Ukraine and the Bundle of Joy initiatives in support of mothers and their newborns. As a mother myself, the care pack has been useful after delivering my child into the world. I am also grateful for the Panda Care Packs, comprising food and a Panda to bring joy while ensuring the well-being of our children," Daria said.
Message to the World
"Be happy every day you live. Kiss and hug your closest ones. Thanks to you, we understand that we are not alone. Please remember Ukraine. We hope you will continue to help us! Glory to Ukraine, Glory to All," said Daria
Eighty-five-year-old Luda, a widow, lost her home, farm, belongings, beloved cats, stray kittens and dogs she had been caring for, following the bombing of her house in Vovchansk village in the war. Her neighbours perished during the war. Her land, which she used to farm on and collect wood from to keep warm before the war, is now littered with mines, making it perilous to gather wood.
As the roof of her home was destroyed by bomb shelling, she had saved money in the hope of repairing her roof. However, there is no one who would repair the roof, as the village is literally a ghost town now.
She received a package of food, medicine, candles and hygiene supplies as well as some hope and well wishes from volunteers, who were the first friendly people she had met after a long time.
Twenty-seven-year-old Maria has two children and is pregnant with her third child.
"The war in Ukraine has radically transformed our lives. We were living in Sumy Oblast. During the war, we left our home and travelled to Kiev. Fortunately, we obtained shelter, food and clothing in Kiev. Thanks to the Care for Ukraine project, we received Panda Care Packs for our children as well as the Bundle Of Joy, a package that will support my coming baby and I. I am extremely thankful for this, as it will support the four of us when the child is born," says Maria.
Message to the World
"War can take away our closest and dearest ones. We should celebrate every moment and be grateful for all that we have," said Maria.
Natalia, 43, left home for Kiev, a relatively peaceful area during the war.
"Before the war, I was working at a children's hospital. When the war started, we immediately left for Kiev, a relatively peaceful area. Thank you, we appreciate the Care for Ukraine package! We received the Panda Care Packs for our children. They brought light to our house and joy to the faces of our children. We are grateful for everything you have given us," said Natalia, who used to work at a children's hospital prior to the war.
Message to the World
"Please continue to help and support us. Your contribution will help Ukraine survive and enable us to return to our homes. I wish you good health," said Natalia.
Natalia Dzhulai, 47, a grandmother of two toddlers and mother of a daughter, has been spearheading a volunteer organisation for displaced children and mothers in Kiev amid the war. When the missiles struck the city on 24 February, the top priorities of Natalia and her daughter were the family's survival. Natalia's elder grandson was one and a half years old, while the baby boy was merely three months old.
"People left their villages; Borodyanka, Irpin, and Bucha and sought support in Kiev. They did not have anything. They did not know the city. We understood that our destiny is to help those children. I am immensely thankful to the Care for Ukraine project for their immense support. We received 50 Bundle Of Joy packages for mothers with newborns. We distributed them to the mothers who needed them most. 20 of them were given to mothers from Bachmut. The packages brought help that was beyond the physical, they symbolised the gift of love, compassion, joy, and the memory of happier times. We are happy and grateful to receive the 60 Panda Care Packs that will benefit the youngest survivors of this war. Thanks to this initiative, we were able to give Ukrainians some semblance of Christmas, even though they were families without homes, and children without families. Thank you for bringing happiness to our people," said Natalia, a director of the city garbage disposal ministry.
Message to the World
"Our hearts are full because of your kindness. The children who have witnessed the kindness of people helping one another will grow up to be compassionate and kindhearted adults who will bring love and joy to others. I hope you will not walk out on us. Please do not leave Ukraine alone, as we are not tired. We will support our people until our last breath. We believe in the bright and happy future of our children. Please believe in us."
Thirty-five-year-old Olga's life was turned upside down when a missile struck Kyiv, the city she has been living in. Cognisant of the onset of the war, she understood that they needed to fight for survival.
"I am very thankful for the Care for Ukraine project for helping temporarily displaced people in cities on the eastern border of Ukraine. The care packages provide useful medicine, support for the newborns and give Ukrainians the strength to go on," said Olga.
Message to the World
"The war is still ongoing. Please help while there is still time, while we are still alive. Glory to Ukraine, Glory to Poland," said Olga.
Eighty-year-old Olga was a mathematician at a local school. Though she had not been teaching full-time for two years, she was a tutor to children in need. The war destroyed the school and the children have left the village. There is no one to teach and nowhere to do it. As an important part of her life has been taken away, she now struggles to find a reason to carry on. The enemy had left 106 bullets at one side of her house and 43 bullets at another (she counted the bullets after the enemy left). But she survived unscathed. Yet, she will never forget.
"I have received a package full of food, medicines, candles, hygiene supplies, warm blankets and fresh sheets to keep myself warm," said Olga.
Message to the World
“Cherish every moment in your life, as you never know what will happen next," said Olga.
Seventy-six-year-old Sergey has been living in the Kherson region for the last 20 years. His house, car, motorcycles and garden were completely destroyed by the war. There is no water, electricity and heating. Though his house is typically heated by a wooden stove, there is nowhere to get the wood as the forests are littered with mines. A few people have died when the mines exploded in their own gardens or fields. He now lives in a small summer kitchen, less than 20 sq meters, with a hole through the roof. That was the only part of his house which was not destroyed. His door and walls were covered with bullet holes. He scavenged the leftover food from his house and the street to secure his survival for the days and months ahead.
Sergey received medicine, which he could not get for months, as well as food and hygiene supplies.
"We thank God for keeping us alive and for everything we have. He is the only one who can keep us safe now.”
“Our sincere appreciation to the Singapore Red Cross for their consistent support in bringing humanitarian aid and relief to those in need in Ukraine. Children are always extremely vulnerable in wartime. This generous donation to the Okhmatdyt hospital is yet another proof that a friend in need is a friend indeed. This help will allow Ukrainian doctors to protect and save the most precious thing that we have and stand for – the lives of our children, the future of our nation.”
— Kateryna Zelenko, Ambassador of Ukraine to Singapore