Hope is elusive for people forced to flee their homes following violence in Ukraine

تم النشر: 8 يونيو 2015 16:14 CET

By Stephen Ryan (@stiofanoriain), in Kharkiv, Ukraine

Since the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine last year, people have been fleeing from the region for their safety, for their lives. Current estimates are that over 1.3 million people are displaced within Ukraine, and a further 800,000 more have fled to other countries.

While these forced migrants struggle to carry on, they have become almost invisible to the rest of the world; while much of the media focuses on the strife in the east, rather than those displaced by the violence, families are counting the days until they can go home.

For many of them, escaping the fighting is only the beginning of a steady stream of challenges. They have little money, and it is difficult to find work. Everyone is bearing the brunt of rising food prices, and for those without proper documents or registration, the cost of even the most basic healthcare is out of reach.

Gregory, a pensioner in his sixties, said he fears that there is little chance of ever going home, "There is nothing for us here; no family, no friends, no end in sight – how can we have hope? Hope, I don't know what that is anymore."

Gregory left Luhansk last August. Fighting had already begun in the region, and even travelling was a risk. He used a humanitarian corridor to escape. He has not been back since.

"It is quiet now, but fighting can happen at any time. It is not yet safe to return,” he said. “My home is not here. I can’t stay here for a long time. I will keep watching the situation, but it looks like it will remain grey – there is no future for me there right now."

Ukrainian Red Cross Society has put all of its available resources into responding to the crisis. However, there seems to be no end to the challenges it must face, as the unstable situation in the wake of the Maidan protests and the outbreak of conflict in the east produces an ever-growing number of displaced people.

The National Society has been able to count on the support of many partners – from the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, as well as UN agencies. Throughout the country, the Red Cross has been providing food, shelter, blankets, kitchen sets, clothing, children's toys, hygiene kits and cleaning items. With such huge numbers in need, resources are stretched, but the Red Cross in Ukraine focuses its efforts on helping those in the greatest need.

The protracted nature of the crisis means that increased resources are needed now more than ever. While people do not feel safe, they will not return home. Until then – and maybe even for some time after – the country will still need support, even if just to allow people to find hope.

It has been a long winter, but for those counting the days, spring is yet to truly arrive.