Care and peace in a time of war

Amid increased danger, MCC partners in Ukraine remain resolved to help

A group of people receiving cans of meat in Ukraine

Providing relief and care to victims of war while living in a war zone is never an easy task. And for MCC partners still working in Ukraine, the decision of whether to pause their work or continue it is a day-to-day question without a clear answer.

Since the beginning of October, Russian military forces have renewed long-range bombing of cities across Ukraine. One of the targets of these strikes is the city of Zaporizhzhia, where MCC’s Ukraine office and many of its partners are based. These attacks have caused some partners to temporarily suspend parts of their emergency response.

Max*, the program director for New Hope Center, which operates in Zaporizhzhia, says the indiscriminate nature of the attacks has required them to put a hold on their transitional shelter and trauma counselling work.

“We decided to pause almost everything we're doing in Zaporizhzhia and wait a couple of weeks to see where all this is going,” he says. “And that's very unfortunate because the need is huge. And the ministry team here is eager to work and help with the needs. But we decided that it's better to wait … it's okay to wait two weeks just to keep the team safe.”

A group of men loading relief supplies in Ukraine
Staff from MCC partner Believing, Hoping, Loving receive a container of MCC humanitarian relief supplies, including canned chicken meat, handmade comforters, hygiene kits, infant care kits, relief kits, school kits and toothpaste. These supplies are going to families who have adopted orphans and internally displaced people in Lviv and Zaporizhzhia. Photo courtesy of Believing, Hoping, Loving

Keeping the team and any relief recipients safe has been a significant challenge these last few weeks. Missiles and drones are regularly launched between 2 and 6 a.m., keeping even a good night’s rest unavailable for the citizens of Zaporizhzhia.

“One of the missiles hit an apartment building less than 300 metres from our church at night,” says Max. “And it looks very different now. There were people who got killed, got injured. That's one of the reasons we decided not to meet as a church two Sundays ago.”

Blaine Derstine, interim representative for MCC in Ukraine, says that while many of MCC’s partners are in a similar position to Max, some have found ways to adapt their programs.

“New Life Charitable Foundation is in Nikopol, where they’ve been under attack for weeks now,” says Derstine. “Some of the staff relocated to Dnipro where there were fewer missile strikes. A new office was opened and they're distributing food there now. And in other parts of Ukraine, our partners continue to adapt to the conditions of the conflict as the needs around them persist.”

Two girls making a heart symbol with their hands sitting in front of relief supplies on a bed
Alina*, 9, and Valeria, 11, in their rented housing in Dnipro, Ukraine, sit among relief supplies from MCC partner New Life Charitable Foundation. Photo courtesy of New Life Charitable Foundation

Nearly 8 million Ukrainians have fled the country for refuge since February 2022 and 6.2 million are internally displaced within the country. Many no longer have homes to return to.

Derstine says that MCC is working on a combination of short- and longer-term plans for its Ukraine response and that both approaches are essential.

“People have immense needs right now — food, water, shelter — which we’re working to address,” he says. “And even with the unclear picture of the future in Ukraine, we also have to be thinking for the long-term, what needs people will have if and when they start returning to Ukraine.”

Top photo caption: Liudmyla and Valentyna* receive MCC canned meat from Charitable Organization Uman Help Center volunteers in Ukraine.
(Photo courtesy of Uman Help Center)

*Full names have been omitted for security purposes.