How cash grants support war-weary families in Ukraine
Meet some of the 120,000 families who are finding their feet again thanks to a cash assistance programme run by UNICEF and partners.
Children and their families have paid a heavy price for the war in Ukraine. Gunfire, shells and rockets have shattered homes. Schools, hospitals and water supplies have been destroyed, and millions of people have been forced to flee.
As the violence has escalated, families trapped in this nightmare have not only been trying to stay alive, but also provide for their children.
In March, UNICEF stepped up to help, launching a cash assistance programme which has so far distributed over US$125 million to 120,000 households. The cash grants allow families to buy everyday essentials, such as food and medicine. They also offer a sense of security at a time when many are at their most vulnerable.
Alina and her three children are among those who desperately needed help like this, after they fled their hometown and later returned to find it unrecognisable.
“Our house is not far from an airfield where fierce fighting took place on the first day of the invasion,” recalls Alina. “To calm the children, I told them that they could hear thunder, even though there were explosions.”
With little hope of finding a job in her devastated hometown, Alina applied for financial assistance. Now, she can afford to buy essentials like food and medicine, and is even helping to support the local economy.
Cash empowers people to choose how to best support their families.
Khrystyna, her husband and their two young sons were forced to leave most of their belongings behind when they fled their home in Mariupol – even the boys’ toys.
“I miss my teddy bear, my grandma gave it to me,” says eight-year-old Kyrylo, sadly. “And I miss my scooter,” adds Danylo, 4. “It is dark blue with a stripe. It whistles when you ride it.”
War has stripped the family of everything, including their savings, so UNICEF’s cash assistance has changed their lives. Most importantly, the grant means they can afford treatment for Kyrylo, who has mobility problems.
“Our life has been divided into two halves,” says Khrystyna, sighing. “Before the war and after it. February 24 was a heavy day for all of us. People’s lives are ruined.”
Before she applied for cash assistance, Vira had resorted to selling her jewellery to buy food for her three children.
"When everything was finished at home, my husband started grinding the chicken feed to make flour,” says Vira, who fled Zaporizhska with her family. “But then even the feed finished. It's really difficult for parents and children. We have left our home, we have no job, no stuff. We just don't have anything of our own.”
Now safe in a refugee centre in Lviv, Vira and her children are starting over thanks to the cash grant, which enables UNICEF to directly reach vulnerable populations.
"I received the help of UAH 33,000. I managed to buy products and medicines for children. And we'll try to keep this money for several months.”
Life without even the most basic necessities, like food and diapers, is every mother’s worst nightmare, as Yulia found when Russian troops attacked in February.
“We never imagined that the village would be invaded,” says the mother of three. “It's just a small place in the middle of nowhere. They set up their checkpoints at the entrance and exit of the village, without letting any aid inside.”
Fortunately, the family has now managed to find a place to stay in Kyiv, where UNICEF’s cash assistance programme is a valuable lifeline.
“We've managed to get some food, essential supplies for the kids and diapers,” says Yulia. “I want peace and health for them. The rest is yet to come. But we need peace."
Anna and her family were too terrified even to leave their village of Dymer. “The rumour was that, in a village nearby, a family with children was shot to death while trying to escape,” says the mother of three. “I was horrified.”
With supplies dwindling after months spent sheltering in their basement, the cash assistance has helped the family to stay afloat. "With these funds, we bought clothes and shoes for the children for summer,” says Anna. “We are grateful for this money, it helped us through hard times before my husband got a job.”
As of August, UNICEF’s ‘Spilno’ cash assistance programme had reached more than 120,000 families and 350,000 children in Ukraine.
The programme, which prioritises families with three or more children and those raising at least one child with a disability, was launched on 31 March 2022 together with the Ministry of Social Policy. Since then, it has distributed US$125 million and reached 350,000 children, including 35,000 with disabilities.
“This programme is about helping families in a crisis do what they believe is best for their children,” says Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. “No one is in a better position to decide how to get the most out of this support than a parent or guardian.”
The programme is made possible by funding from the European Union, the Government of Italy, the Swedish International Development Agency, USAID and the Central Emergency Response Fund, as well as generous support from businesses and caring individuals from around the world.
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