Moldova: Compassion, solidarity - and warmth
Show solidarity and share the warmth of your home and heart. This is the encouragement to people in Moldova who have room and interest in hosting refugees from Ukraine. To offer winter support both to communities hosting, and those being hosted, DRC and one of its local partners - Community Association Soarta from Soroca - deliver bags of coal during December.
‘These bags of coal will get me through the winter,’ says an elderly woman, a local resident of Soroca, the district in north-east Moldova, with the administrative centre located on the right bank of the Dniester River, bordering Ukraine. She is retired and gets by on a small government pension, but used to work on a farm for many years to make a living. Now, she waits in line with fellow women in need, asked to queue at the roadside next to a new church in the periphery of the city. This is where the coal distribution organised by Soarta and funded by DRC, is taking place.
‘Soarta’ means ‘fate’ or ‘luck’ in Romanian - one of the primary languages spoken in Moldova along with Russian – reflecting the turbulent history of the country that gained its independence in 1991.
The notion of both fate and luck seems to resonate all too well with the people patiently standing in line on this cold December day with harsh winter months in the horizon. They are among a group of 1,700 people in Moldova’s northern Soroca identified and selected by Soarta as being specifically vulnerable and in need of winter assistance – just as their neighbours from Ukraine now among them, who have fled war and trauma from months of shelling, air raid alarms, and with whom they have in common a profound uncertainty of tomorrow.
Temporary protection in private homes and public buildings
Moldova is among the countries sharing borders with west and south Ukraine, and is home to a small country with only 2.6 million inhabitants and one of the highest levels of poverty in Europe. Since the beginning of the large-scale displacement following February 2022 events in Ukraine, millions of people have crossed into neighbouring countries – including Moldova - to either transit and move onwards or remain in proximity of Ukraine and seek temporary protection and refuge with their neighbour in west.
Nearly 100,000 people from Ukraine are right now hosted in Moldova, the majority of them - around 70% - in private accommodation and the rest in some of the 66 government-run Refugee Accommodation Centres set up in empty schools, kindergartens and other facilities that provide space for temporary shelter.
Here, and since the onset of the crisis, Ukrainians find temporary home, food, clothes, hygiene items, safety and a hand to feel consoled and stronger, at a time where many of the 2.6 million people in Moldova are struggling with economic challenges, increasing inflation, a spiralling energy crisis, and job losses.
Moldova: Harsh winter coming
At one of the distribution sites, Soarta meets a larger group of Ukrainian refugees, women and children who have fled from areas that have seen extensive shelling and damages to civilian infrastructure. Many are from Kharkiv, Kherson, Odesa as well as Mykolaiv, the home of Raya, a refugee herself and head of an informal association gathering fellow Ukrainian women in Soroca.
‘Beside winter items – heating, clothing and so on - we see that often the elderly among our refugee community need medical help and guidance which there is no easy access to. As adults we are better prepared to adapt and find new ways to generate income since returning to Ukraine is uncertain. Being dependent on bits of cash assistance here and there cannot be the only way to support the family while being here as guests and in refuge,’ says Raya.
Only a few international humanitarian agencies are present in northern Moldova despite the increasing need for assistance to local communities and refugees alike, as part of the wider response to the Ukraine displacement crisis. The members of the group of Ukrainian refugees in Soroca tell that this is their first time to meet and receive international aid in Moldova.
Heating homes in 40 villages
Activities of DRC and its local partner, Soarta met some of the winter needs among refugees and their vulnerable hosts in about 40 villages in Soroca district – among them Bădiceni, Hristici, Cerlina, Grigoreuca, Rublenița, Șolcani, and many more - where people worry about the coming months and challenges to cover expenses, pay for utility costs and purchase enough firewood and coal.
The DRC supported project provided 525 refugees and host family members with 180 tons of charcoal used traditionally to heat the village households during the cold seasons. These were mostly elderly with 200 families receiving 300 kg of coal each and more than 300 multiple member families with children, receiving 400 kg of coal which is sufficient for 1-2 months of locally preferred and procured resources that can contribute to their home heating.
The DRC project via Soarta in Soroca/Moldova is funded by Danida and private foundations supporting DRC’s broader Ukraine Crisis Response.