By Nichola Jones, IFRC
Alla Dmitrienko is a single mum. The lives of her two children 15-year-old Denis and Elena, six, as well as her elderly mother Anna were torn apart when fighting erupted in eastern Ukraine. They were forced to make the difficult decision to escape Donetsk and head to neighbouring Belarus.
They have found the safety they were in search of in the town of Borisov, Mogilev region, but cripplingly low wages and difficulty accessing state services mean that the mother and her children now live in a two-room flat in a factory worker dormitory. One of the rooms is being occupied by a stranger who shares their kitchen and bathroom. 80-year-old Anna has to live in the countryside.
Alla works gruelling shifts at a paper factory, across the road from the accommodation, which is provided by her employer. The cost of the flat has to be covered by her wages, which amount to 125 USD per month.
“I work night shifts and many hours. But it’s still almost impossible to earn enough,” said 40-year-old Alla. “The children look after themselves when I’m not there.
“I’m close by if they need me but it’s not the life I want for them.
“We had no choice but to leave the Ukraine. I knew it would have a big impact on the children and on my mum but we had to do it to survive.”
Alla is among the 150,000 people who have fled Ukraine for Belarus since violence began in 2014. She’s also among the thousands of people who have received food vouchers from the Belarus Red Cross.
Its emergency support programme for displaced people has provided a lifeline for Ukrainians but it is striving to do more and scale up its support for 10,000 more people with the help of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC). The IFRC’s 740,000 Swiss francs appeal has received a major boost from European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO) which donated 327,610 Swiss francs, followed by a recent contribution of CHF 188,125 from the Swiss Solidarity foundation through Swiss Red Cross. But more funds are desperately needed.
Head of Belarus Red Cross Disaster Management and Tracing Department, Dmitry Rusakov, said: “There are many families like Alla’s – families who have no choice but to try to survive on one salary and when you consider how low these wages are, you can imagine the dire situations people face.
“Escaping danger is only part of the story for tens of thousands of people who have fled the Ukraine. They face an uncertain future of poverty in Belarus and the support being provided by the Red Cross is in many cases just keeping families afloat.”