Neighbors helping neighbors: Ukrainian Refugees in Poland

The Russian – Ukrainian war is causing global horror as many other countries are affected. Some of the effects have been increased fuel prices, home destruction, and education suspected among others. The human consequences, however, largely outweigh this list. For Ukrainians who have become refugees in Poland and several other countries, the shock and trauma of the war could be forever.

Poland has shown exemplary human support by accepting over 2.3 million Ukrainians into its territory in just 1 month. What a commendable gesture! Even though more refugees are arriving every day as the UNHCR reports, the kindness of Poland to support its neighbors cannot be ignored.

Furthermore, it is also praiseworthy to remark on the European Union’s decision regarding refugees. It has offered temporary protection status to people fleeing Ukraine. This means refugees can access social services and the labor market without having to respect the cumbersome asylum procedures. On the contrary, the registration process for these refugees will take a long time.

As a means of supporting vulnerable Ukrainians to settle in Poland, the UNHCR and its sponsors are providing cash gifts. In addition, in their make-shift office spaces in Warsaw, Ukrainians are registered and provided with the much-needed help that they need. Amazingly, since March 21 when UNHCR opened a center a Warsaw, more than 6,000 Ukrainian refugees have benefited. Besides the financial support, the cash enrolment center includes a child-friendly space for young children.

Importantly, this cash program aims to support refugees in covering their basic expenditures. This includes urgent and immediate needs since many of them are left without carrying enough resources. On the other hand, the support aims to help them cope until they find work or receive social assistance from the government. Consequently, refugees can contribute to the local economy when they buy their much-needed wants or pay rent.

Last but not least, the UNHCR plans to scale this project to other Polish cities. Not only that, Moldova, Romania, and Hungary are also considering this project. Along with the initiative, some parts of Ukraine are instituting similar cash support for the 6.5 million internally displaced people who are in desperate need of basic support.

For instance, for at least three months, qualified refugees receive 710 Polish zloty (US$165) per month. Whilst family members in a household receive 610 Polish zloty, a total of 2,540 zloty (US$605) per month.

Commenting in Poland, the chief of UNHCR’s digital and registration section said “Cash puts the decision-making about what is most needed into the hands of the people being assisted”.

He continued, “Blue Dot” help desks, jointly run by UNHCR and UNICEF, will be set up at every cash center to provide counseling to refugees, and to refer them to specialized services including for unaccompanied children, people with disabilities, refugees from the LGBTI+ community or women experiencing gender-based violence.

It is extremely applaudable that some of the staff recruited and trained by UNHCR to work at the centers are Ukrainian refugees.

The testimonies of Ilona from Kyiv, eighty-year-old Liubov, and Rozalia, who have benefited from the support are quotes for the thousands of beneficiaries. There’s no disputing how helpful these cash gifts have been to several Ukrainian families.

Given how unpredictable war has become in recent times, almost no country can boast of preventing its citizens from becoming refugees. Thus, it is a global call for all countries and philanthropists to support countries like Poland which are seemingly carrying the weight of the migration. Cash gifts are sustainable contributions and will go a long way to diminish the devastating effects of the war. At this time, our neighbors include every human being, not necessarily those living right next to us. The global community needs to act now as if it were them.

Sarah Namondo