The Russian invasion of Ukraine has caused massive destruction in villages and cities across Ukraine; it has damaged and destroyed homes across the country and left over 11.2 million people in need of emergency shelter or vital household items. As temperatures drop below freezing and the country experiences its first winter snow, People in Need’s teams are working hard to fix the windows and rooves of damaged homes and collective centres; more complex repairs will follow. Additionally, tarpaulin, wood, and plastic sheeting that enable basic repairs are being distributed to families, in addition to winterisation items like stoves and mattresses.
As winter looms in Ukraine, the needs are massive. Winter temperatures in Ukraine can easily drop to -20°C or below. In July, the Ukrainian Government warned that hundreds of thousands of homes had been damaged or destroyed since the start of the war, leaving hundreds of thousands of people without a roof over their heads. This number has significantly increased with recent attacks and ongoing fighting.
Furthermore, in recent weeks, millions of people in Ukraine have been left without electricity and water; consequently, many Ukrainians now have insufficient heating as Russia has concentrated its air strikes against critical civilian infrastructure. On November 15th, Russia conducted the largest attack on energy infrastructure since the start of the war, hitting critical infrastructure in at least 16 of the country’s 24 oblasts and the capital city Kyiv. The situation with energy supply is precarious in a total of 17 oblasts and Kyiv.
“All these attacks by Russia have just one aim—cause chaos and suffering among civilians and to force further displacement of thousands of people within Ukraine or into neighbouring countries. Attacking civilian infrastructure like power plants is a clear violation of international humanitarian law. Winter must not be used as a weapon,” says Petr Drbohlav, Regional Director for Eastern Partnership and Balkans at People in Need.
10 million people in Ukraine do not have access to electricity
The recent wave of a Russian missile and drone strikes has crippled almost half of Ukraine’s energy system. According to the Ukrainian Government, more than 10 million people have no access to electricity due to Russian attacks. Most of these people are in Vinnytsia, Odesa, Sumy, Ternopil Oblasts and Kyiv. The situation is also critical in Donetsk Oblast, the second biggest city Kharkiv, in recently liberated areas and areas along the frontline. Most oblasts face regular disruptions in power and water supplies.
As a response, the Government has urged people to save energy by reducing the use of domestic appliances such as ovens, washing machines, electric kettles, and irons. Additionally, the Government has scheduled temporary power outages. Authorities are stocking up on fuel, food and water, and people are advised to do the same. At least 1,000 heating shelters are being set up across Kyiv, where people will be able to get warm if needed.
Warmth for one million displaced people in collective centres
Ongoing fighting ahead of harsh winter months also contributes to further internal displacement. As of October 27th, IOM estimates that 6.5 million internally displaced people are spread across Ukraine. This figure represents an increase compared to 6.2 million as of the end of September. Among these, 450,000 have been newly displaced within the last 30 days. An estimated 14 per cent of the displaced population reportedly considered leaving their current location in the forthcoming weeks (an estimated 916,000 individuals), with a further 13 per cent considering return (857,000). Many people are considering moving before the start of the winter.
“Everything that we had for our daily life, we do not have anymore. And now we are trying to rebuild at least something. And People in Need supported us.”
The Ukrainian Government also noted that, as of October 20th, 1 million displaced Ukrainians are currently staying in over 5,600 collective centres across the country—centres that require support to be ready for the winter months.
Rooves and windows for tens of thousands of people
Humanitarians are helping communities repair heaters, fix damaged rooves and windows, distribute mattresses, blankets and warm clothing, and supply hospitals with backup generators and mobile heating kits. There is a need for more generators, stoves and solid fuel to prepare for winter.
By spring, People in Need, together with the partners, started the distribution of emergency shelter kits and provided people with construction materials to do basic repairs to houses damaged in the war.
“Everything that we had for our daily life, we do not have anymore. And now we are trying to rebuild at least something. And People in Need supported us. Just an example, we did not have the battens – and we need them for the roof. Thanks to the organisation, we received the battens, and we repaired the roof ourselves,” says Liudmyla Chmil, a resident of Ivanivky village in Chernihiv Oblast.
People in Need’s team is now focused on light and medium repairs of the houses in Sumy, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Kyiv, and Zhytomyr Oblasts.
“We are fixing the windows, doors, rooves, and minor cracks to external insulation of damaged homes, followed by more complex repairs. At the same time, emergency shelter kits with tarpaulin, wood, and plastic sheeting that enable basic repairs are being distributed in Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, Dnipro Oblasts, and as newly liberated areas of Donetsk Oblast,” says Viktor Gladchenko, PIN Ukraine Shelter Technical Lead. “These repairs are needed to improve living conditions, prevent deterioration of the conditions of houses damaged during the war and mainly improve protection from harsh winter,” he adds.
In Zakarpatska Oblast alone, we are currently reconstructing 14 buildings; 528 people displaced from other parts of Ukraine will have new homes by the end of the year.
“In newly liberated Balakliia, Derhachi, Eshar, and Alkhivska hromada, we delivered pumps and necessary equipment that was installed and ensured that the centralised water system was running.”
Other support People in Need is providing before the winter includes the distribution of winterisation household items like mattresses, sleeping bags, high thermal blankets, quilts, foil blankets, thermos flasks, and portable stoves together with dry fuel and candles. People in Need’s teams also work on the repair of collective centres and insulation of houses through the provision of cash or in-kind material. Other support options, such as cash for rent or utilities like heating, are available.
Water systems must be fixed before winter
According to UN OCHA, up to 16 million people in Ukraine need water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance. These include communities living in areas where water and waste-water infrastructure have been damaged, the energy supply is disrupted, and internally displaced people gathering in collective centres and host communities.
Water systems that are often closely connected to heating systems must be fixed before winter.
“We provide long-term solutions in several settlements where the water system was heavily damaged or was not operational for several months. In newly liberated Balakliia, Derhachi, Eshar, and Alkhivska hromada, we delivered pumps and necessary equipment that was installed and ensured that the centralised water system was running,” says Sergey Saienko, East Region Director for People in Need Ukraine.
People in Need’s assistance to people in Ukraine is possible thanks to donations from the public and private sector to the PIN SOS Ukraine Emergency Appeal, financial contributions from Alliance2015, CARE, Stichting Vluchteling, King Baudouin Foundation, Avast Endowment Fund – Stichting Avast and partnership with international non-governmental organisations and institutional donors European Union, Ukraine Humanitarian Fund, USAID‘s Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance or Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Czech Republic.
People in Need in Ukraine
Nine months have passed since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Whilst People in Need has been helping people in eastern Ukraine since 2014, in February this year, the assistance changed. PIN immediately increased the team in Ukraine and expanded the operation to almost all the oblasts throughout the country. Since then, the organization has helped more than 500,000 people, the team on the ground has grown to 270 employees, and generous donors have contributed more than two billion Czech crowns (€80 million) to the Ukraine emergency appeal. People in Need have provided €40 million worth of aid to the victims of the war since Russia’s invasion.