Donate cash, not material goods, says Ukrainian border aid group

An aid worker on the Ukraine-Romania border has urged those wishing to support refugees to send money, not material goods.

Cassandra Nelson works for the humanitarian group Mercy Corps, an organization which has sent teams to Eastern Europe to support those fleeing conflict.

Ms Nelson arrived in Siret in the Romanian region of Suceava, about an hour’s drive from Ukraine border, about a week ago.

In the three weeks since of Russian President Vladimir Putin invaded army Ukrainemore than 150,000 refugees, mostly women and children, have already traveled through the North-East region alone.

Undated handout photo released by Mercy Corps of aid worker Cassandra Nelson at the Ukraine-Romania border who urged those wishing to help refugees to send money, not material items. By PA.

Ms Nelson said the situation was still in ’emergency mode’ and many families ‘just wanted to go home’.

Speaking to reporters from the Palestinian Authority News Agency, the 55-year-old said he was donating money to charities is the best way to meet the direct needs of refugees.

“A lot of people in Europe are really keen to help by sending goods, what we call material aid,” she said.

“Please don’t do this.

“Unless there is a very specific request for something like a certain type of medicine, cash donations are best.

“Trucking stuff in here, like clothes, is not the right solution at the moment.

“It’s so hard to distribute properly to the right people, and the transportation costs to get it here with the high gas prices just don’t work.

“We have functioning markets here in Romania or Poland where we can buy what we need.”

Since the invasion, Romanian officials have said that approximately 344,518 Ukrainian citizens arrived in the country.

Bournemouth Echo: Cumulative arrivals of refugees from Ukraine to neighboring countries.  Chart via PA.Cumulative arrivals of refugees from Ukraine in neighboring countries. Chart via PA.

While 280,000 of them would be on the move to other European countries, Ms Nelson said many people where she worked had decided to stay put.

She said: “Many of them here are really hoping that this (the conflict) will end soon and they can go home.

“There’s a lot of support for people to travel across Europe, but a lot of these fleeing people aren’t interested in Europe, they just want to go home.”

The aid worker said the Mercy Corps team is setting up a cash transfer program with local organizations to get cash directly to individuals.

Ms Nelson said: ‘We don’t want to give people things they don’t need, they know what they need so we want to give them money for it.

“It will give them a bit more dignity and freedom to do what they need to do right now.

“We are also setting up a platform to provide information to refugees to help them understand what their rights are and what documents they need if let’s say they want to travel somewhere else, and the money to help them get them.”

Mercy Corps also has teams in Poland and conducts cross-border operations, delivering supplies to displaced people in Ukraine using local organizations.

Ms Nelson said: “These local partners know the roads best, they know how to get around quickly.”

Standing among rows of royal blue tents set up by the Romanian government to house families seeking refuge from sub-zero temperatures, Ms Nelson paints a picture of conditions on the ground in Siret.

“Inside the tents there are beds, sleeping bags and mats, it’s very basic,” she said, “but there is heating and electricity.”

The aid worker and her colleagues had to set up camp about an hour and a half drive from town due to the lack of available accommodation.

She said: ‘There’s just nowhere to rent.

“All towns and villages are at full capacity.

“All sorts of places here are turned into shelters though, including a hotel ballroom.”

Among the thousands of displaced families she has met in recent days, Ms Nelson said there was one woman whose story stood out for her.

“I met a mother on a bus returning to Ukraine who arrived in Romania two weeks ago with her six-year-old daughter,” she said.

“She had to leave behind her two-year-old son and her elderly parents in Sumy because she couldn’t transport them all across the border.

“I asked her why the hell she was going back to Ukraine, and she said she was going back for her son.

“She goes back and forth in the middle of this terrible violence. These are the kinds of stories we hear.

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