Like you, CAFOD is deeply disturbed by the ongoing attacks on Ukraine.
Together, we stand in solidarity with the Ukrainian people and send our prayers to our sister organisation Caritas Ukraine, and those Caritas agencies in neighbouring countries, who are already helping people affected by this conflict.
As one Caritas, we stand united with them.
We are part of one of the largest aid networks in the world – Caritas Internationalis, and because of our global reach and local presence, we are there when an emergency hits.
What is happening?
Russian armed forces began their attacks against Ukraine – invading the country on Thursday 24 February targeting military bases and Ukrainian cities. Russian troops advanced toward the capital Kyiv early on Saturday 26 February and street fighting broke out as city officials urged residents to take shelter.
Tetiana Stawnychy, President of Caritas Ukraine, has expressed concern that Ukrainian families will soon need emergency water, food and safe shelter: “the current crisis will inevitably lead to a colossal humanitarian catastrophe,” said Stawnychy.
Russia’s military invasion will have dire consequences for Ukraine; threatening people’s lives, their jobs and essential buildings like schools and hospitals. The conflict has already caused food shortages and forced people from their homes.
To date the Ukrainian health ministry has said more than 300 civilians, including more than a dozen children, have died. As the fighting continues these figures are likely to rise.
As freezing temperatures continue, the plight of Ukrainians will only worsen. Any bombing of public services like schools, hospitals and train stations across the country will only result in further suffering of the Ukrainian people.
How are CAFOD’s local partners responding?
We are part of one of the largest aid networks in the world – Caritas Internationalis, and because of our global reach and local presence, we are there when an emergency hits. Our Ukrainian and neighbouring Caritas local aid workers and volunteers are part of the communities they work with and so understand people’s immediate needs.
I am truly proud of our team that are working hard to look to the needs of the most vulnerable, while managing their own circumstances as well. We are grateful for the outpouring of support from our partners and people of good will from abroad.
Tetiana Stawnychy, President of Caritas Ukraine
Caritas organisations are already on the ground responding to this humanitarian crisis:
- Caritas Ukraine has 19 centres across the country. They are extremely experienced, having been active for 30 years and have been responding to the conflict in eastern Ukraine since 2014. They are already helping by:
- Running warm and safe ‘collective centres’ which provide beds, food, washing facilities and safe spaces for children. Displaced families can also receive up-to-date information, referrals to local services and psychosocial support.
- Transporting people to friends, family, or the collective centres for shelter and support;
- Organising Child-Friendly-Spaces where children can play sports and do arts and crafts as a means of coping with their experiences.
- Caritas SPES, a charity of the Religious Mission of the Roman Catholic Church in Ukraine, is helping children and families to reach safe locations.
- Caritas Poland, Caritas Romania and Caritas Moldova are all supporting people who have fled Ukraine and are in need of food, water, shelter and means to continue their journeys to safety.
How has the Catholic Church responded?
Pope Francis has called for political leaders to make “a great examination of conscience before God, who is the God of peace and not of war”.
The Rt Rev John Arnold, Catholic Bishop of Salford, and Chair of Trustees at CAFOD, along with more than 1000 faith leaders from across the UK, have written to Prime Minister Boris Johnson, urging him to reconsider the Nationality and Borders Bill.
Bishop John and other faith leaders believe that the bill closes the door to refugees. “While there is still conflict and injustice in the world, there will always be desperate people needing to seek sanctuary from war, persecution, and suffering.”
What is CAFOD calling for?
Every human life is priceless. We are calling for an urgent diplomatic solution and a lasting ceasefire to prevent further suffering and to bring peace back to the region.
Urge the government to push for peace in Ukraine and safety for refugees
There is now a growing humanitarian crisis, and Caritas Ukraine – among other humanitarian organisations – are on the frontline of the response.
Schools, hospitals and water systems must be protected from any armed violence so that practical help can be delivered without delay to people across the country.
The UK must also show compassion towards those who are fleeing the conflict, providing safe passage and refuge to those who need it.
We are concerned by reports of discrimination at Ukraine borders and call for all refugees to be given help and safe passage regardless of their ethnicity, gender or faith.