Ukraine Humanitarian Aid Report: Live from Romania
One month after the Russian military invasion of Ukraine, Peace Boat Disaster Relief Center (PBV) in collaboration with Peace Boat organized an online event on March 29. A total of 10 million people, close to one quarter of Ukraine’s population, have either left Ukraine or are internally displaced and an unprecedented humanitarian crisis is now being faced. Following the invasion, PBV began working in coordination with our partner in Romania, the Peace Action, Training and Research Institute of Romania (PATRIR) who have been active in humanitarian aid since immediately after the aggression began. A team was dispatched from Japan to Romania March 19 - 30, to confirm the needs and situation on the ground, and in this event reported live from Romania.
The event was introduced from Tokyo by Kobayashi Shingo of PBV, who expressed appreciation to all those who had already donated to the campaign, so far 9 million yen. PBV Executive Director, Ueshima Yasuhiro reporting live from Romania which is second only to Poland in the number of refugee arrivals, said that as the attacks on Ukraine have been increasing so more people have been fleeing. The Romanian government has provided support for refugees, operating six refugee centers providing protection for mothers and children and guaranteeing access to education, healthcare, housing and employment. Civil society organizations in Romania are very active with many citizens participating in the humanitarian efforts. Refugees are hosted by local families as the authorities try to avoid a concentration of refugees in one specific area with websites matching families from Ukraine with local families. This dependence on volunteers and citizens is, however, not sustainable and more resources and long term support is needed.
Suzuki Ikuno, International Projects Coordinator at PBV, said that the team had visited Bucharest, Sighetu Marmației, Siret, Costanza and Cluj-Napoca, where PATRIR is based. PATRIR has been working on peacebuilding and peace education since its foundation in 2001 and is an active member of the Global Partnership for the Prevention of Armed Conflict (GPPAC), of which Peace Boat serves as the Regional Secretariat for Northeast Asia. They have been working to support Ukrainian civilians and others impacted by the war, operating under the banner of “All for Ukraine,” a broad network of humanitarian support organizations.
Ms Suzuki explained how transport hubs are key to supporting refugees arriving in Romania including the Gare du Nord train station, one of the main arrival points from Ukraine. Because men aged 18-60 are not currently permitted to leave Ukraine, most arrivals are women, children and elderly who are more vulnerable to criminal activities. A video from Gare du Nord showed a volunteer with Funky Citizens, an organization providing assistance to refugees including language support, helping them find a place to change clothes, access to hygiene products, food for themselves as well as their pets and to help them reach their intended destination. Similar facilities are being provided in Cluj-Napoca for families traveling between trains including food, a place to rest and a space for children to draw and play.
Reporting on their visit to Sighetu Marmației, Ms Suzuki said that many organizations are operating at the border including the UNHCR. Showing a picture of the bridge crossing between Ukraine and Romania she said there were reports of men, unable to leave legally, swimming across the river even in freezing temperatures. Fathers were also having to entrust their children to volunteers across the border, even people they had not met before. Many cuddly toys are positioned on the path on the bridge as a present to those children arriving in Ukraine, who may have left home without their toys. It was, Ms Suzuki explained, an example of the support from the local community.
Peace Boat has a long history of friendship and collaboration with partners in Ukraine, including through visits to the port city of Odessa, partnership with crew members and shipping operators from Ukraine, and hosting of dialogue events for local peacebuilders and mediators onboard our ship. Captain Viktor Alymov who has captained Peace Boat’s voyages for the last twelve years is from Odessa. He had recently fled Ukraine to seek refuge in the Romanian port city of Constanza where PBV staff were very glad to meet with him. He shared a message to Peace Boat participants thanking them for their support.
Having explained the situation on the ground, Mr Ueshima outlined PBV’s future plans. Inside Ukraine, efforts will focus on temporary shelters, procurement and transportation of medical supplies and the distribution of survival packages (food and hygiene kits). One volunteer, Alex, himself a refugee, working in a relief center distributing supplies to cities under attack said in a video that residents with disabilities, the elderly are most in need. 3000 food packages are delivered to families in one day but there is a lack of resources to fulfill the demand. In Romania, efforts will be focused on the integration and migration support for refugees, support for those in need of continuous medical treatment and socio-psychological support for refugees including children who had been exhibiting signs of trauma.
The report concluded with words from Kai Brand-Jacobsen, President of PATRIR who had recently returned to Romania from Ukraine. On behalf of All for Ukraine, he said PBV had been with PATRIR from the beginning and expressed his gratitude to all those who had contributed to humanitarian efforts saying it was of “incredible and life saving importance''. He spoke about the ongoing and very urgent need for support saying that while much of the world has focused on those who have left the country, 8 million people have been displaced within Ukraine where the situation was becoming “more and more extreme” with a desperate need for medicine, food supplies and shelter. “Your support is saving lives” he told those watching and we must work “together to bring an end to this war”.
Mr Ueshima concluded by expressing his appreciation from PBV to PATRIR and all the different organizations who are working together with PBV and Peace Boat. Kobyashi Shingo closed the event with an appeal for further support for humanitarian efforts and for efforts to build peace in the world. Generous donations were made following the live report and PBV and Peace Boat’s fundraising for All for Ukraine has raised 11 million yen to date and continues to fundraise in Japan and online. PBV continues to work with PATRIR and is seeking additional partners for future humanitarian support projects in Romania.
View the archive of the event below