Ukraine’s remarkable resilience: Inside the country’s hardy response to the war 

By Jaz Low

Interview with Manal Fouani, acting Resident Representative of UNDP Ukraine. 

“The war has to end now, if not yesterday,” Manal Fouani, acting Resident Representative of UNDP Ukraine says of the Russia-Ukraine war. Millions are internally displaced, casualties are multiplying with every waking moment, and 90 per cent of the population could fall below the poverty line if the war persists even a day longer.

But in the face of these mounting odds, the country is not backing down. In fact, Ukraine’s war response has been nothing short of remarkable. All hands are on deck to deliver humanitarian aid, avail digital services to internally displaced persons, and support affected populations in war-torn regions.

Fouani shares how Ukraine is sparing no effort to alleviate civilian suffering through various streams of humanitarian and recovery assistance.

Crossing the border to find safety

In April 2022, Ukraine launched a new digital service on the Diia portal for civilians to register themselves as an internally displaced person (IDP). “This will allow Ukrainians to easily and quickly update their status as IDPs without the need for unnecessary bureaucracy and papers,” Fouani notes.

IDPs are those who have been forced to leave their homes but still remain within their country’s borders. To date, over eight million Ukrainians are internally displaced, while over six million people have crossed national borders and are living as refugees abroad.

The government can refer to this registry to track and monitor the status of IDPs, as well as coordinate this information with humanitarian groups to further efforts on the ground. Support can look like emergency shelters set up, the provision of food and water supplies, and first aid teams that are equipped to treat injured personnel.

Additionally, IDPs can apply for a monthly allowance through this service. The government will be disbursing a sum of UAH 2,000 (US$67) per person and UAH 3,000 (US$101) per child or person with disabilities for the duration of martial law, and up to one month after its nullification.

A woman using the Diia platform to access services for internally displaced persons. Photo by Andrii Krepkikh/UNDP Ukraine. 

As mentioned previously, IDP-related services will be found on Diia. This is a government platform where citizens can access digital public services such as housing applications and share feedback with public servants.

Prior to the war, Diia had already onboarded more than 17 million civilians. Launching new services for IDPs under it was a no-brainer, Fouani explains. “We managed to build on the development investment made during times of peace and now the portal has come into service of Ukraine’s humanitarian response,” she adds.

Monthly payouts and housing 

This is not the first time that Diia has rolled out services for IDPs.

Previously, Diia launched a monthly allowance service for IDPs who were affected by the 2014 armed conflict in eastern Ukraine.

In May 2021, the Ministry presented a service that allowed IDPs to participate in the state programme of subsidised mortgage loans. After filling up an electronic application form, Diia will inform candidates if the state has awarded them loan funds.

Earlier in February this year, Ukraine’s Ministry of Digital Transformation implemented a service where IDPs can submit electronic applications to prolong or terminate their monthly assistance payouts.

Before this, they had to collate supporting documents every six months to prolong assistance or notify the government of changes in their circumstances, and terminate the help. Diia has since simplified this procedure as IDPs are only a click or a tap away from verifying their eligibility for payouts.

The humanity in humanitarian aid 

Apart from supporting IDPs, the country must also deal with the devastation from the war.

Ukraine’s State Emergency Services has been at the forefront of rescuing people trapped under rubble and from fires caused by shelling. They also helped to clear debris and unexploded ordnance so humanitarian aid workers can reach areas safely, and residents can evacuate without a hitch.

A deminer from State Emergency Services searching for explosive ordnance in Makariv, Kyiv Oblast in May 2022. Photo by Oleksandr Simonenko/UNDP Ukraine. 

“These are the first responders to all emergency calls. Their work is not only critical but also time-bound,” Fouani explains.

To help State Emergency Services provide vital support to civilians across the country, UNDP Ukraine is contributing protection and firefighting equipment, generators for emergency power, food supplies, and tools for removing debris.

UNDP Ukraine has been playing a major role in contributing to the government’s crisis coordination and emergency response management as well. They are helping to ensure that there is safe access for humanitarian aid workers and critical infrastructure repair.

Part of their work includes demolishing unstable structures and removing debris, so that cleared routes can provide continued safe entry.

An appeal to other countries 

Yet, dealing with a crisis of this proportion alone is no easy feat. Ukraine may be responding to the war with incredible resilience, but “joint and cohesive efforts from other countries will greatly help to accelerate the delivery of humanitarian assistance,” Fouani emphasises.

The village of Novoselivka, near Chernihiv. Photo by Oleksandr Ratushniak/UNDP Ukraine.

For a start, “other countries should continue advocating for the end of this war so that the Ukrainian people can regain their safety and start rebuilding the country,” she elaborates.

Second, countries can contribute by funding humanitarian relief and early recovery projects. The government of Japan is leading by example, having chipped in US$4.5 million to the aforementioned explosives clearance and debris removal programme.

But over and above goodwill, countries should step in because the war could potentially devastate the rest of the world. “We are looking at more than 1.7 billion people in at least 107 economies affected in the areas of food, energy, and finance,” Fouani warns.

Ukraine has been the breadbasket of the European region, as well as many countries in Africa and the Middle East. “We fear that there may be extensive ripple effects of famine in these places if the war does not come to a stop now,” she adds.

Ukraine has been putting up a strong front by launching digital services to help IDPs and delivering humanitarian aid to war-ravaged areas. While their national efforts are commendable, international cooperation can help prevent more lives from being lost and restore the country to its original state of peace.

All pictures courtesy of UNDP Ukraine.