View from Ukraine: As conflict reaches one-year mark, NGOs are adapting and responding to shelter needs

Shelter workshop

24 February 2023


In Ukraine, over 11 million people needed support with emergency shelter and essential household items in 2022. As the humanitarian situation continues to change, NGOs working in Ukraine’s Shelter sector are continuously adapting to the needs of these communities, providing support ranging from building repairs to psycho-social and employment services.

Some of these organisations are long-established NGOs whose remits have transformed entirely since the start of the conflict, while others are just over one year old and created in response to the conflict itself. But all are encountering new challenges, whether related to a shifting frontline or grappling with an entirely new sector and way of working.

CARE's Shelter team is working with partners in Ukraine

CARE International’s Shelter team has been working closely with Ukrainian partners to support those who have lost or been forced from their homes. CARE recently brought together national and international NGOs working in the Shelter sector in Ukraine at a three-day event to share ideas, lessons and learning from the last year. NGOs had the opportunity to shape the agenda, define what they needed and how international partners like CARE could respond to to these needs.

Reflections from Shelter NGOs

Below, NGO leaders Stepan and Kostiantyn share their reflections on the event itself, how their organisations are responding to the changing context in Ukraine and how international partners can best leverage their support.

Stepan Kaliuzhnyi, from the Foundation of Kindness and Love, based in Kyiv

Stepan Kaljuznyi

How has your organisation changed over the last year?

Our organisation has been working in the non-governmental sector for 16 years.

Before the war started, we worked with vulnerable groups here in Ukraine, but now our focus has changed. Now we provide food and other aid in cities on the frontline, as well as evacuating people from hot-spots and assisting hospitals and clinics by delivering supplies. We’ve just recently started working in the shelter sector, which is now an area we’re focusing on developing our presence in.

What are the main challenges to delivering shelter support in Ukraine?

We help people whose homes have been damaged or destroyed, either by providing modular housing (houses built in factories rather than their eventual site) or helping to reconstruct homes that have been damaged. Our primary concern relates to heating systems: autonomous heating systems are much more efficient than generators, but they take much longer to install, and houses would sometimes need to be redesigned to do so. Unfortunately, we don’t have the time or capacity to do this, which means households have been left with the inefficient generators and heating systems.

The constant attacks on the energy system in Ukraine have also created significant challenges in this respect. Even when we can provide people with a roof over their heads, we cannot provide comfort because of these heating issues which constantly arise.

Kostiantyn Adamenko, charitable foundation "Let's Rebuild Together", Kharkiv

Kostyantyn Adamenko

How has your organisation changed over the last year?

We are a new organisation. Our foundation was established in April of last year, when there was active fighting in Kharkiv and we saw our loved ones suffering.

We work with construction companies in Kharkiv to reconstruct and repair damaged properties, through a team of volunteers who help to make the repairs. We’re funded by donations that we raise ourselves.

I received a lot of information here (at the workshop) and I am sure that this knowledge will help me to communicate and build bridges with other organisations.

What, in your opinion, are the greatest challenges facing NGOs working in the Shelter sector in Ukraine?

I work with many local authorities in Kharkiv. Unfortunately, practice shows that assistance is usually concentrated in the central and western regions of the country. But we’ve got an acute need for light and medium repairs in the frontline areas of Kharkiv (in the north-east) now that tensions there have subsided a little, because there are a lot of damaged buildings.

We have received more than 1000 applications for support from the heads of the United Territorial Communities (Zolochiv, Bohodukhiv and Derhachi). I am talking about people who live in small towns or in rural areas. In these communities, people were unable to leave because they have farms, cows, pigs and vegetable gardens which they live off. They were forced to live with friends and relatives, or anywhere they could find shelter. So, there is a strong need for repairs here – it means people will once again be able to live comfortably in their own homes.

For 40 thousand hryvnias (around £900) you can make repairs like installing windows and fixing a roof, which will give someone the opportunity to live in their house again.

Can you tell us about issues around temporary accommodation?

There are many people whose houses were completely destroyed, and they need some kind of shelter, because they do not have the opportunity to go abroad or even to the west of the country. In many hromadas (municipalities) in Ukraine, there are large buildings that could be used to house these people temporarily. However, they are old houses and would need repairs for people to live in them: electricity and water supply, pipeline improvements and ventilation systems.

Although here we often talk about temporary housing, I am not a supporter of building housing only for temporary purposes. I believe we need to build centres that will be used for other, long-term purposes. The war will end, but there will be other problems because many young families - women with children - have left for European countries and sooner or later the men will go there too. This means many pensioners will be left here alone. The economic situation in our country will be catastrophic. It is impossible to survive on a pension now, and it is hard to imagine what will happen later. So, these shelters should be built for long-term use, to be used as homes for the elderly.

There is also the problem of financial assistance. Internally displaced people currently receive financial assistance, but pensioners or disabled people who stayed in the frontline areas are deprived of it.

A problem for NGOs relates to the humanitarian system. Many new NGOs have been created, and they want to respond to the challenges that have arisen. But when they want to work within the international humanitarian system, they find they can’t work successfully because they do not have the appropriate background knowledge.

For me, as a representative of a new NGO, it is important that large international organisations hear us and are ready to cooperate with us. Therefore, I would really like support on how to properly engage with international donors and funding opportunities, how to prepare documents for them and build cooperation with them.

This work would not have been possible without the generous donations from our corporate partner IHG Hotels & Resorts which supports Shelter programming in Ukraine and beyond.

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CARE International's Shelter team

When a disaster strikes, shelter is often one of the most urgent needs. We work with communities and partners to provide emergency shelter in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, and we support people to rebuild or repair safer and more resilient homes.

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