Ukraine: "I was particularly impressed by the volunteers"

Karl-Otto Zentel is secretary general of CARE Germany. He was recently in Ukraine to support humanitarian aid on the ground.
1. You have just returned from Ukraine. What is the humanitarian situation there?
It is highly critical in the east of the country, where heavy fighting is currently continuing. Some people can no longer leave these areas and are fighting for their survival. In other parts of the country, especially in the west, structures are still untouched by the war. Many refugees and displaced persons are arriving here. This means hundreds of thousands of people need shelter, food, clothing and everyday necessities. Countless volunteers and aid organizations are working here around the clock. 
2. What are the challenges for the humanitarian aid workers? 
The humanitarian situation on the ground changes every day. The information and needs that have been gathered and identified this week could be different next week. While at the beginning of the war, the refugees and displaced people were in urgent need of everyday necessities, now it is shelter that is becoming scarce and expensive. Many of the displaced in the west of the country are now also currently looking for job opportunities. In Kyiv, we have a situation where more and more people are coming back, so these people who were displaced last week now need support to rebuild. 
3. What is currently needed the most?
In the West, a lot can be achieved with cash. With the money, people fleeing can support themselves and decide for themselves whether they want to use it to buy food or a bus ticket. Most of the refugees and displaced persons are women with their children, so baby food and diapers are especially needed here. But in some areas, supplies of food, water and medicine are again urgently needed, as there are regions that are completely cut off from supplies. Here, the need for durable food, such as canned goods, is particularly high.
4. What is the situation like for women and girls?
The Ukraine crisis poses enormous protection risks, especially for women and children who have been displaced both within Ukraine and to neighboring countries. Over 90% of those fleeing to neighboring countries are women and children. Many of them are traveling alone and are at increased risk of gender-based violence, exploitation, abuse, discrimination, trafficking, and poor access to vital health services. In particular, the rather uncontrolled access to border crossing points, especially at the beginning of the crisis, provided perfect conditions to attract traffickers. In order to prevent this type of trafficking, it is crucial to ensure coordination, information and provision of services and materials at border crossing points, but also in arrival countries.
5. What impressed you most on the ground?
I was impressed by the immense commitment of the civil society and volunteers who organize themselves. They assist with the arrival of the refugees and with registration, finding accommodation and finding a job. The Ukrainian people have generously supported with donations, be it their own office space as temporary accommodation, but also food, clothing and things for everyday needs have been donated. This is where people come together who can no longer do their actual jobs and use their skills to help people in need. I spoke with an architect who has started a network of restaurants that now distribute up to 11,000 meals a day. An accountant goes to people's homes every day to distribute medicine. It is truly impressive how dedicated these people are.
6. What is important in the coming weeks and months?
In the coming weeks and months, it is important that aid reaches where it is urgently needed. This aid must be appropriately adapted regionally so that individual needs are met. It is also important that the many smaller, local volunteer organizations can benefit from the structures and expertise of larger organizations, such as CARE, in order to be able to help as many people as possible. The constantly changing situation must be closely monitored so that we can react quickly and accordingly.

CARE's aid in Ukraine

In Ukraine, CARE supports a number of partner organizations that have a proven track record in development cooperation and humanitarian aid. Volunteers and smaller local initiatives receive financial support to help flexibly on the ground. In addition, CARE provides shelters and safe spaces for women and families, distributes food, water, hygiene items, and provides psychosocial support and cash assistance. As always, CARE considers the needs of women and girls, as well as young children, the elderly and those with disabilities. Together with our partners, CARE aid will reach over 150,000 people in the next six months.