Damaged infrastructure and sub-zero temperatures. How is Caritas helping Ukrainians survive this harsh winter?
December 8, 2022 News

Damaged infrastructure and sub-zero temperatures. How is Caritas helping Ukrainians survive this harsh winter?

Massive attacks on basic infrastructure mean a harsh winter for Ukrainians. Widespread power, water, gas and heat cuts are affecting everyone, including the still relatively safe west of Ukraine. Caritas Czech Republic is helping Ukrainians through this difficult winter period. We are building modular houses, supplying generators and providing psychological and financial assistance.


Determination and resilience

"There is not a single street light on in the streets. Locals walk around the city with headlamps and dress children in reflective vests," says Katerina Krejcova, our coordinator in Ukraine, from the west of the country. "Most people's homes have no heating, no electricity. So the situation is difficult here too, it is impossible to live a normal life here. But the locals are incredibly resilient and they do everything they can to live it," Krejčová said.

However, at least the supply of food and other basic needs in western and central Ukraine is working. But this is not the case in the eastern parts of the country, and especially in the newly liberated territories. From there, thanks to the help of the Ukrainian authorities, people are being evacuated until at least basic supplies and services are restored. Since the beginning of the Russian invasion, about 7 million people have fled to safer areas of Ukraine.

"If Russian attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure continue, Ukraine faces a humanitarian catastrophe this winter. That is why it is so important to help people on the ground with the basic necessities of life," Krejčová explains. 

Modular houses and reconstruction

Caritas Czech Republic started sending humanitarian aid to Ukraine immediately after the Russian troops invaded in February. We sent trucks with food, sleeping bags, mats, medical supplies or generators. Our partner organisation Caritas Ukraine is now delivering basic goods to the places where they are most needed. Our main focus is on helping those who have had to flee their homes in the face of Russian aggression. We coordinate our assistance with the local authorities, who are responsible for ensuring conditions for the incoming refugees and can identify exactly where and what assistance is needed.

Hundreds of thousands of them have found refuge in Transcarpathia. Many of them, however, do not live in decent conditions and reside in large shared emergency accommodation such as gyms. We are helping to provide the internally displaced with decent housing and are building modular houses for them that meet high standards of the European Union. At the same time, we are renovating old buildings in the region to expand the capacity of decent accommodation as much as possible.

We are building modular houses for people from at-risk groups

"We want to help people who have lost everything. They are broken because of the war and they do not know what to do with their lives. We want to give these people solid ground under their feet so they can focus on integrating in new places and rebuilding their lives as they were used to before the war," says Natalia Mackova, project manager at Caritas Czech Republic in Ukraine.

Cold and darkness affect everyone, psychologists help

Frequent power cuts and air raid sirens that sound at least once a day make it difficult for our colleagues on the ground. "We had to buy a powerful generator to even be able to finish the construction of the modular houses. At the same time, we are facing shortages of different types of goods and building materials," says Krejčová. "Most of our colleagues have long power outages at home, and their apartments have no running water or heating. They as well as everyone else are exhausted, it is a huge stress," she adds.

Of course, it is not just about power, heat and water cuts. Ukrainians coming from the fighting areas have to cope with the loss of loved ones, homes, jobs and the familiar streets they would walk every day. And that is very painful. People from towns occupied and destroyed by the Russian army have lost everything, even their place in society. Caritas Czech Republic is helping them cope with the trauma and horrors of war.

We have trained local psychologists to provide psychological care in crisis situations. Experts from the Czech Republic came to Ukraine to share their experience on how to help people who are experiencing huge trauma or deep loss, but also how to take care of their mental health and how to cope with so much grief but still be able to help others.

We respond to current needs

"What is very much needed in Ukraine at the moment are generators to help provide electricity for the displaced people and those who are helping them," says Evžen Diviš, regional manager of Caritas Czech Republic. Already in the spring, we sent 84 power generators to the country. The next shipment of generators and gas heaters, which is being provided by the Archdiocesan Caritas Olomouc in cooperation with Caritas Czech Republic, is leaving for Ukraine these days.

As part of the emergency aid, we also equipped two ambulances for the medical centre of Caritas Drohobych. These ambulances are used to support the local medical service in times of war. In the future, they will be used for the immediate transport of patients, providing urgent assistance in field conditions and remote areas. Caritas Czech Republic will also provide the medical centre with necessary medicines. Another material aid that we are now finalising is the supply of protective equipment for Ukrainian firefighters.

We provide immediate cash support to displaced Ukrainians

People fleeing the war often flee with only a few things. Many of them have lost their jobs and their ability to provide for their families. We provide these people with financial support so that they can afford basic necessities and are able to take care of themselves and their loved ones.

Help across borders

Caritas Czech Republic also helps Ukrainians who have fled the war outside of the country. Hundreds of thousands of them have made their way to Moldova since the beginning of the war. Europe's poorest country is still hosting more than 86,000 refugees, placing a heavy burden on it. We are therefore equipping refugee centres in the country, providing immediate financial support to refugees to cover their basic needs, and increasing the availability of medical and psychological services.

Caritas Network also provides care for refugees who have arrived in the Czech Republic. It mainly helps them to provide the basic necessities of life and assists with integration. We help refugees to find accommodation and work, but also to secure health care or a place in school or kindergarten. We also run an assistance hotline in the Ukrainian language to help Ukrainians find their way around the Czech Republic. Young Caritas also help refugees from Ukraine to adapt in the Czech Republic, and work with volunteers who further assist especially Ukrainian women and children who have found a safe haven in the Czech Republic.