On February 24, the world watched headlines and livestreams of Russian soldiers invading Ukraine. As the shelling and explosions began, many people fled to safety. In Moldova, border crossings quickly became overcrowded with Ukrainians trying to escape their country.
“Thousands of regular Moldovan people rushed to help the refugees with what they could: accommodation, food, transportation, orientation, and information,” said Tatiana Costev-Coșuleanu, the Executive Director of iRi. “iRi members got involved in the process of managing the flow of refugees, providing the necessary assistance to refugees where it was needed.”
Under normal circumstances, iRi promotes socio-economic development initiatives in rural communities in Moldova, with a focus on disadvantaged and marginalized populations. Now, the organization is also involved in a number of initiatives that are responding to the humanitarian crisis.
By mid-March, more than 350,000 Ukrainian refugees had entered Moldova, of which roughly 100,000 are expected to stay – at least for the time being – instead of continuing on to other parts of Europe. Official numbers estimate that the refugees include at least 40,000 children, and that as many as 90% of the refugees have received aid from local residents, churches, and entrepreneurs.
“This speaks volumes about Moldovan civil society. At the moment, Moldova shares the greatest share of Ukrainian refugees per capita in Europe,” said Tatiana.
However, the staggering number of refugees has led to disorganization and chaos at border crossings. As soon as the crisis began, iRi volunteers went to the border and to placement centers and began speaking with officials to see how iRi could be most helpful. iRi has since helped organize transportation and accommodations for refugees, while also providing helpful information and Moldovan SIM cards so refugees have phone service.
iRi has also encouraged the local communities it works with across the country – more than 80 communities – to help refugees. As of right now, 24 of these communities are hosting, feeding, and transporting refugees. So far, these communities have helped more than 3,500 Ukrainians, half of whom are children and families, offering them shelter, firewood, food, hygiene products, school supplies, and games for the kids. iRi is providing these communities with financial support and supplies to help defray the costs of supporting thousands of refugees.
“We are prepared to continue to respond to the needs of refugees,” said Tatiana.
Tatiana stressed that displaced children and their families need many things: first and foremost, love and a sense of peace. At the placement centers, iRi has provided kids with games and activities to at least spark some joy and laughter. The immediate relief is critical, but iRi has also already begun planning to meet the refugees’ long-term needs.
“For immediate future needs, we see educational integration of refugee children and young people,” explained Tatiana.
When the crisis in Ukraine began, Global Fund for Children immediately reached out to its partners in the region, including iRi, to offer flexible funding that allows these organizations to quickly pivot their work to meet emergency needs.
“GFC was the first to ask us directly how they can help our organization to manage the flow of refugees in the Republic of Moldova. Especially in times of crisis, we appreciate very much the partnership with GFC,” said Tatiana.
“The people of the Republic of Moldova feel the pain of the Ukrainian people,” Tatiana added. “Moldovans share not just their goods and houses, but also their hearts with the Ukrainian people.”
Header photo: Volunteers providing a hot meal to Ukrainian refugees. © iRi
Global Fund for Children (GFC) UK Trust, created in 2006, is a UK registered charity (UK charity number 1119544). We work to generate vital income, create new fundraising opportunities, and raise awareness of the invaluable work of GFC’s grassroots grantees. Our aim is to extend the reach of GFC in the United Kingdom, Europe, and beyond.
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