Families fleeing fighting in Ukraine plunged into poverty in Belarus

Publié: 13 avril 2016 10:27 CET

By Nichola Jones, IFRC

When fighting broke out in Ukraine in the summer of 2014, more than 1.4 million people were displaced and tens of thousands fled to neighbouring Belarus.

Of the 150,000 people who arrived in Belarus, which has a population of almost 10 million people and is facing tough financial times as a result of a weakening Russian economy, many were families with young children.

While Ukrainian children are able to access education in Belarus, their parents face acute poverty which is leaving thousands of families struggling to afford the basics – including food.

Yulia Folkovskyaya, 33, arrived in Bobruisk in Belarus from Donetsk region with husband Maxim and their two children, seven-year-old Violetta and two-year-old Mikhail. “When we arrived, we were living nine people in two rooms,” she explains.

“We could not find any job in Bobruisk and had to move to Borisov. My husband works so in that way we are lucky – but he earns 200 USD per month and to provide for our children is something we always have to worry about.”

Violetta suffers from a degenerative polyneuropathy which has severely damaged the muscles in her legs. The brave youngster has recently undergone an operation that her parents hope will help her become mobile.  But she needs extra treatment, physiotherapy and massage and will face operations in the future – all medical care that’s Violetta’s heartbroken parents know they will struggle to secure.

“She is so desperate to be active and run around and play like other little girls.  We hope this operation will help her for now but there is no cure for her condition. She will definitely need more treatment and we don’t know if we will have to pay – we don’t know how we will manage.”

Yulia and her family were provided with support from the Belarus Red Cross when they arrived in the country, including food vouchers and help accessing healthcare. The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) has launched a 740,000 Swiss franc emergency appeal to support a further 10,000 people who have fled the Ukraine to Belarus.

“Parents are facing acute poverty in Belarus and are forced to make incredibly tough decisions – decisions that in some cases can leave their families lacking the medical care they need because they simply do not have the money,” said Sergei Boltrushevich, head of the IFRC in Belarus.

“The Red Cross is committed to providing emergency support to these families so that their basic needs, such as being able to feed their children, can be met,” said Boltrushevich.

The European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department has pledged 327,610 Swiss francs to the IFRC’s Belarus appeal but extra funds to cover the growing needs of vulnerable Ukrainian families are urgently required.