Practical Techie: Exercise caution when helping Ukraine through the web
As the tragic conflict in Ukraine rolls into the final stages of a possible full Russian occupation, millions of kind souls send money, medical supplies, food, and clothes to help refugees fleeing the strife to border nations.
The UN Refugee Agency estimates that as of mid-March 2022, no less than 2.5 million Ukrainians migrated to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania, and Slovakia. A massive movement of people that fast became a humanitarian crisis.
Much of the donations will funnel through the web’s social media platforms, NGO groups, nonprofit institutions, and international help foundations.
Likewise, hundreds of unkind souls take advantage and set up fraudulent schemes to benefit from the outpouring generosity of the good people on Earth.
How to sort the good from the bad and crooked when donating to the Ukraine cause?
INITIATIVES — Early help logistics included a grassroot effort of people booking Airbnb apartments in Ukraine to donate the payments to show solidarity with he owners. European newspapers such as The Daily Mail and the Guardian have private drives to collect donations.
Renowned Spanish chef José Andrés sent mobile kitchens to the borders and financial support to Ukrainian restaurants. Three women set up an Instagram channel to support Black students facing racism trying to flee. Another, Black Women for Black Lives, is distributing funds to cover transportation, accommodation, and food costs for individuals and families who feel discriminated.
Helping women caught in the crisis, the group Urgent Action Fund provides grants to women’s rights movements and nonbinary and transgender activists around the world.
SOCIAL MEDIA — Don’t bundle up spare clothing or other supplies and ship them to Eastern Europe. The fragile Ukrainian supply lines need to remain open for medicine and food, advises The Conversation. On the web, crowdfunding and social media campaigns for Ukraine are now over a thousand so be careful. Well-intentioned folks posted many, but a few may be fake. Experts advise donors to stay close to the well-known international organizations. Cash is best.
UNITED NATIONS — First, go to the UN Refugee Agency for technical assistance in helping to provide core relief. The UN is constantly negotiating to secure access, safety, and security to deliver lifesaving aid. It sets up mechanisms for protecting civilians and civilian infrastructure, respect for international humanitarian law, and coordination with border countries to keep the gates open for the displaced. Core lifesaving aid includes food, water, medicines, medical care, shelter, basic household items, thermal or plain blankets, mattresses, cash, building materials, generators, and fuel. Hot soups and tea are a treasure in the cold winter.
A new UN-sponsored cash-only currency system is in place as plastic money, paper bills, credit, bitcoins, and other forms of goods exchange are non-existent in Ukraine. The UN estimates a behemoth $1.5 billion in humanitarian assistance is needed during the next three months.
Both the UN proper and the beleaguered Ukrainian government strife desperately to keep communication channels open such as telephony, internet, and radio transmissions,
NONMATERIAL — All is not material help. Organizations such as the Inter-agency Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRP) provide technical support or referral services at the refugee border stations. RRP personnel help identify refugees with certain expertise to become on-the-spot first responders.
Mental health and psychosocial support services are also in the pipeline.
On the other hand, the NGO Human Rights First diverted the gist of its assistance to Afghanistan refugees to help keep an eye on civil rights abuses in Ukraine. The organization has experts in place to gather documentation, or evidence that would convict war criminals — also, a watch on the use of chemical weapons and other dark methods of warfare.
Both these agencies also stay alert to the risks women and girls suffer in displacement situations, including gender-based violence, abuse, or intimate partner violence. Protection from exploitation and sexual abuse is also prioritized.
DONATE — The following is a list of reputable charities and organizations accepting donations to assist Ukrainians. Founded in 1918, the Ukrainian Red Cross is desperate for help.
A human rights organization based in Hungary, The Helsinki Committee, provides free-of-charge legal assistance and representation for refugees entering border countries. The Association for Legal Intervention is a civil society organization that focuses on the needs of migrants and provides pro bono legal aid to Ukrainian refugees.
Starting in 1919 to meet the needs of children impacted by war, Save the Children focuses on the daily needs of infants. Also, in 2015 as Ukraine was engaged in fighting with Russian-backed separatists, the Voices of Children Foundation began focusing on psychological support to children traumatized by war.
Meanwhile, Sunflowers for Peace was founded in Boston in 2014 by Ukrainian-born realtor Katya Malakhova to help her country. The well-known Doctors Without Borders provides medical supplies and training to Ukrainian hospitals. Finally. If someone wants to volunteer to fight in the country’s military, go to the People’s Project site.
Hoping this information helps those who want to open their hearts and purse in aid to Ukraine.