Caritas Ukraine branches were able to open 12 warming centres and soup kitchens which served nearly 1,500 individuals during the abnormal cold spell which gripped Central and Eastern Europe, thanks to donations received from Germany and Vienna (30,000 ? and 20,000 ? respectively).
In January-February 2012, Ukrainians endured the coldest temperatures in 6 years; temperatures at night consistently reached -30? C. Although not uncommon for Eastern Ukraine, these temperatures reached Western and Southern regions as well. The situation led to problems with heating, water, sewer, electricity and other infrastructure and disruptions in public transportation which made it difficult to access remote villages. The poor, elderly, ill, isolated, homeless, those with dependency issues, and poor children and adolescents suffered the most.
Caritas Ukraine supplied warm meals, medicines and warm clothing to those who needed it, educated people about hypothermia, provided medical assistance to those affected by hypothermia, and made psychological counselling available.
Caritas employees and volunteers made extra home visits to ensure that their poor and isolated elderly clients had necessary medicines. Caritas’ social centres also made shower facilities available, distributed information on warming centres and offered legal and social counselling. Services were provided out of existing Caritas Social Centres, mobile units, and out of special tents set up near train stations and central parks in Ukraine’s cities.
Petro, a 65 year old who has been homeless in Ivano-Frankivs’k for many years said: “If not for Caritas, I probably would have frozen to death. After many years of living on the streets, I’ve learned how to take care of myself and help others with very little, but this year the winter was just too harsh. Those who usually help have run out of funds to buy us necessary items, to warm us up, feed us, and attend to our medical needs. I’m too old to fight for my life on my own.”
In the two weeks that the program functioned (longer in some regions) Caritas fed lunches to over 12,000 individuals in various regions of Ukraine. This was accomplished because of close cooperation with city administrations, the Ministry of Emergency Situations of Ukraine, partner organizations and Christian groups. This project also allowed us to identify people who need emergency help, financial assistance and counselling.
“Thanks to foreign philanthropic organizations, Caritas Ukraine was able to help nearly 1,500 disadvantaged individuals who were suffering from the abnormally cold temperatures. All Ukraine’s regional Caritas branches have extensive experience in running soup kitchens, setting up humanitarian aid distribution points and distributing medicines to the less fortunate.
Ukrainian Ministry of Emergency Situations statistics show that during the cold snap nearly 4,000 warming tents were set up for the homeless, over 4,000 raids were made which identified nearly 5,000 individuals who needed help, and over 150 individuals died from hypothermia (this figure is low as it does not include those who died because they did not receive medical attention for aggravation of existing chronic diseases).
Employees of the regional Caritas organizations noted that state run warming centres were inadequate; they also noted that the homeless were reluctant to use these centres because they were run by law enforcement agencies.
If not for the efforts made by Caritas and other charitable organizations, the results of this cold spell would have been much worse. We have to wonder however, how long will foreigners pay to address Ukraine’s social problems? Why don’t local donors make this investment? Each of us should pay attention to the problems of those who are less fortunate then we are; like those who are homeless, especially during difficult times and bad weather. It doesn’t matter, how these people ended up in their current situation, we are all, nonetheless responsible,” said Anatoliy Kozak, General Secretary of Caritas Ukraine.
Caritas Ukraine expresses its sincere thanks to donors, volunteers and partners for caring, expressing kindness, and not ignoring those in need.