A safe home and a sense of normalcy for displaced families
in Ukraine

Children displaced by conflict in eastern Ukraine
Three-year-old Larysa and 4-year-old Yuliya cut the ribbon during the inauguration of a centre for internally displaced persons in Ukraine. Photo: UNDP Ukraine

Three-year-old Larysa and 4-year-old Yuliya smile shyly at the crowd gathering around them. TV cameras zoom in to capture the girls cutting blue ribbons during the inauguration of a centre for internally displaced persons in the quiet town of Balaklia, in the Kharkiv region of Ukraine.

The two girls have had their lives turned upside down in the last several months.

Highlights

  • Two million people have been forced from their homes since the onset of the conflict in eastern Ukraine.
  • UNDP works with the Government, donors and civil society partners to provide comprehensive support and early recovery programmes for the displaced.
  • More than 80,000 people received food kits, clothing packages and warm bedding through a humanitarian assistance project funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
  • With funding from the EU and Japan, UNDP is working with local authorities to provide housing and services for 40,000 people in regions hosting the most displaced people.

Massive shelling razed their family’s home to the ground and forced them to live in a cellar for more than 10 days without water, electricity and heating. They were later evacuated by the military and volunteers to the neighbouring Kharkiv region.

Larysa and Yuliya’s story is typical among the two million people who have been forced from their homes since the onset of the conflict in eastern Ukraine in mid-2014. The girls now have a safe place to stay in the newly renovated rooms of a former sports school, repurposed into a shelter for more than 60 displaced families with children.

“We are supporting people of Ukraine who are now facing great challenges caused by the armed conflict,” said Neal Walker, the UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative in Ukraine. “Among our top priorities - restoring critically important social infrastructure and effective work of local governments, creating jobs and spurring entrepreneurship among internally displaced and persons and host communities, promoting peace and reconciliation.”

Working with the Government, donors and civil society partners, UNDP has developed comprehensive support and early recovery programmes for the displaced that take into account the rapidly changing reality on the ground. More than 80,000 people received food kits, clothing packages and warm bedding through a humanitarian assistance project funded by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

With financial support from the European Union and Japan, UNDP is also working with local authorities to provide housing and social services for around 40,000 people in 50 newly renovated centres in the seven regions hosting the most displaced people. And UNDP support goes beyond immediate humanitarian assistance, building a foundation for longer term, sustainable recovery.

Many of the displaced are elderly, have disabilities or are families with children. They receive medical care, social services and vocational training to help them adjust and earn a living under new circumstances. UNDP projects also aim to restore or reinforce social cohesion in communities affected by the conflict.

With hostilities still simmering and the cost of living increasing, jobs and job security are in everyone’s thoughts. Finding adequate employment is challenging for many people in Ukraine, but it is especially difficult for displaced people who have been torn away from their social and professional networks. Youth, in particular, who find themselves in unfamiliar territory face extra hardship getting careers off the ground.

“It is always difficult for youth to find the first job, but it becomes twice as hard when you are forced to migrate,” UNDP project head Ruslan Fedorov said. “That is why it is so important to support projects that facilitate employment of these young people.”

To that end, UNDP has partnered with the Free People Employment Centre, a local NGO that conducts educational and professional training programmes. The Centre has worked with 5,000 internally displaced people, 1,500 of whom have since found steady work.

"The situation in the Crimea forced me to leave my hometown for Kyiv. I found myself here alone, without family or a job," said 22-year-old Karina Kutsuruba, who enrolled in a course at the Free People Employment Centre after a year of working in a job that did not suit her career ambitions. "Now I have a job [at an advertising agency] that I could only dream about before. I would like to say to all other displaced: Never give up no matter how difficult it seems at first."

Around the world, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) estimates that more than 50 million people have been forced to leave their homes because of war or human rights abuses. The theme for World Refugee Day 2015 is “Ordinary people living through extraordinary times”.

Karina, Larysa, Yuliya and other displaced persons in Ukraine are ordinary people who got caught up in the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine. Finding a decent job and a safe place to live is critical to regaining their footing and restoring a sense of normalcy after such a traumatic experience.

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