JDC steps up its emergency aid in Ukraine

Children at a refugee camp in Kharkov with a JDC volunteer photo/jdc-rachel calman

As the crisis in Ukraine worsens and more Jews flee conflict-ridden cities in the eastern part of the country, the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee has stepped up its emergency response, helping refugees and delivering critical aid to those who have remained in areas of unrest.

Oleg Khaet, JDC’s Kharkov welfare programs coordinator, brings a care package to a Jewish family in the refugee camp in Kharkov. photo/jdc-rachel calman

JDC has provided a comprehensive aid program to more than 1,000 Jews who have fled the violence and found new homes in the Ukranian cities of Kiev, Dnepropetrovsk, Kharkov and Odessa, and even in the southern Russian city of Rostov. This includes accommodations and rental subsidies, food and clothing, Jewish community connections such as family summer camps, and post-trauma counseling services. Through its network of Hesed social welfare centers, JDC has also resumed services for clients who have been displaced, and has been aiding Jews living in refugee camps.

In the east, where many Jews remain, JDC staff and volunteers are delivering food, water and medications to the elderly and families at risk in Donetsk and Luhansk. In Slavyansk and Kramatorsk, two cities previously under fire, JDC’s food card program has resumed and the need for aid packages has eased.

JDC volunteer Vladimir (left) remained in Slavyansk throughout the fighting to pack food bags for needy clients. photo/jdc

“People are staying for several reasons: fears for their safety if they try to leave or loss of their property,” said JDC’s CEO, Alan Gill.  “Many others are too physically fragile or are hoping for a quick outcome to the crisis. It’s our job to be there for them. We are aware — especially with news that the hryvnia [the Ukrainian currency] has hit its lowest value — that the economic side of this crisis will soon rise and we will need to further address unanticipated needs.”

JDC’s work in eastern Ukraine is part of its monthslong emergency response to increased needs among the most vulnerable Jewish elderly and poor families all over Ukraine. The work includes stepped-up delivery of medications and food, and upgraded homecare and counseling services for stress-plagued staff members and clients alike.

Destruction (right) in Kramatorsk, Ukraine, near Donetsk photo/jdc-rachel calman

JDC mobile units have delivered critical supplies throughout the emergency from Kiev to Odessa to Kharkov. JDC staff and local Jewish community volunteers have taken risks bringing food packages to homebound elderly people in areas of unrest. Homecare workers have spent nights in the homes of their most frail clients, and special operating hours and phone services at Hesed centers have ensured round-the-clock care.

JDC’s emergency efforts in Ukraine have been generously supported by Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein and the International Fellowship of Jews and Christians, the Jewish Federations of North America, and many others. Today, JDC has four major offices and supports a network of 32 Hesed centers serving Jews in need in more than 1,000 locations across Ukraine. — j.staff