Unfortunately after 7 months of conflict between Russia and Ukraine, the situation does not seem to be resolving. As soon as it started at the end of February 2022, the We Act For Kids Action Fund, the IDKIDS teams and brands mobilised to support the actions of the Red Cross for Ukrainian families and children, in particular through mini-donation operations deployed in shops and online.
What did these actions help to achieve in Ukraine? What is the situation today? How can we continue to support the work of the Red Cross? Exceptionally, Philippe Da Costa, President of the French Red Cross agreed to answer our questions.
Philippe Da Costa, could you remind us what the Red Cross does?
The raison d’être of the French Red Cross is to act unconditionally to protect and lift up people in vulnerable situations and to work with them to develop their resilience. In concrete terms, to respond effectively to the needs of people in vulnerable situations, the French Red Cross coordinates its activities around three priorities for action: prevention and training, relief and the return to autonomy and integration.
On 24 February, the Russian-Ukrainian conflict began, provoking a huge wave of support: how did the Red Cross mobilise?
The International Committee of the Red Cross and Red Crescent (ICRC), which has been present in Ukraine since 2014, immediately went on alert to strengthen the assistance is was able to provide in the country and its teams working with the population. From the very first hours of the conflict, the French Red Cross has also been strongly mobilized by providing logistical and financial support for the actions of the Red Cross movement and by organizing itself to welcome and accompany the people fleeing the conflict in the best possible way.
IDKIDS employees mobilized quickly, coordinated by the We Act For Kids Action Fund: in total, more than 120,000 euros were raised for the French Red Cross. What were the funds used for?
These contributions are essential because they allow us to implement a long-term action plan. In particular, they have helped to strengthen the presence and actions of the Red Cross Movement in Ukraine and neighbouring countries.
For example, we have sent more than 600 tonnes of humanitarian aid material to the conflict zone and nearly 1 million emergency aid kits have been prepared and are being sent to the area for distribution to the population (first aid, hygiene, food, specific kits for babies).
In France, as early as March, we welcomed Ukrainian nationals fleeing the conflict: orientation, distribution of food baskets, accommodation and emergency financial aid were offered to them.These donations have also made it possible to set up “stork” operations to evacuate several dozen seriously ill Ukrainian children and their families to France. They were met by French Red Cross volunteers and transported to French hospitals for further treatment away from the war and the ruined hospitals. Thanks to the remarkable support of our partners, but also of their staff and customers, the French Red Cross has been able to deploy several types of action to meet the essential needs of the victims of the conflict.
“WE HAVE SENT MORE THAN 600 TONNES OF HUMANITARIAN AID TO THE CONFLICT ZONE AND NEARLY 1 MILLION EMERGENCY AID KITS HAVE BEEN PREPARED AND ARE BEING SENT TO THE AREA FOR DISTRIBUTION TO THE POPULATION”
Our teams pushed hard to give products as well: why was this not necessarily the primary need of the Red Cross?
Given the situation on the ground and the logistical efforts and costs involved, the collection of goods in kind, whether clothing, medicine or food, is very complex to deliver and difficult to manage if not supervised. Furthermore, it is important to respond as closely as possible to the needs of the people being supported and to be able to adapt our response to situations, in a context of rapidly changing needs. Financial donations guarantee an agile and targeted response on the spot, and make long-term intervention in terms of support and redevelopment possible.
Many children, our own and those of our customers, have approached us because they wanted to take action: is it possible to involve them at an appropriate level?
Of course, it is important to be able to explain the situation to children and answer their questions with the help of educational materials. In particular, it is possible to talk to them about International Humanitarian Law, which is a major historical mission behind the entire Red Cross movement. It is also an opportunity to make them aware of the commitment that can start at a very young age and last throughout their lives. There are many ways to get involved, with the Red Cross or otherwise: training in first aid to acquire essential reflexes to save lives, participating in local initiatives because everyone can play a role in the chain of solidarity that has been built to help families who have fled the conflict.
“IT IS IMPORTANT TO BE ABLE TO EXPLAIN THE SITUATION TO THE CHILDREN AND ANSWER THEIR QUESTIONS WITH THE HELP OF TEACHING MATERIALS. “
Unfortunately, the war continues. What is the Red Cross still doing to support Ukrainian families?
We know that our mobilisation in this crisis is long term, and we continue to send first aid equipment to Ukraine and to welcome the refugee populations in stations, airports and reception sites. Every day, our volunteers work to find accommodation for them, care for them, provide them with technical, psychological and material support, enable them to keep in touch with their loved ones, offer them dignified reception conditions and help them rebuild their lives. At the start of the school year, our volunteers were able to distribute school supplies to families who had arrived in France, thereby enabling Ukrainian children to be as well-equipped as all other children to go to school.
In Ukraine and neighbouring countries, we are working hand in hand with the Movement, which is coordinating the response on the ground, with as many as 39 Red Cross societies involved in supporting people in distress. We have just opened a delegation in Moldova and one in Romania, where I was able to go and meet the local teams. We are committed, through five-year cooperation agreements, to supporting these countries bordering Ukraine, which have been particularly affected by the conflict, with the aim of meeting current needs but also of being better prepared for future crises.
How can we, as employees or brands, continue to support your actions with regard in particular to the impact of this conflict on children and their families?
Thanks to very extensive general mobilization, we have the means today to help the populations directly affected by this conflict, and the French Red Cross is the leading contributor of humanitarian aid to the Movement. But we know that the economic and social consequences of this crisis extend beyond borders, affecting a society that is already weakened by the recent health crisis.
Our volunteers work on a daily basis to provide those most in need with a dignified and unconditional welcome and long-term assistance, especially to exiles in general, among whom we see more and more young unaccompanied minors. This conflict has economic repercussions in our country, and we are facing high inflation, coupled with rising energy prices. We need to support more people in difficulty, students, single-parent families, isolated people and others who need social assistance, food, clothing, etc.
“THROUGHOUT FRANCE, IF WE CAN CONTINUE TO DEPLOY OUR ACTIONS, IT IS THANKS TO THE GENEROSITY OF OUR DONORS AND THE COMMITMENT OF OUR VOLUNTEERS.”
And more generally, what are your key needs?
The economic consequences of the war in Ukraine are now being felt in our country, where almost one in five children are already affected by poverty. In this context, we are really concerned. To support the actions of the associations that oversee food distribution,
I invite all those who are able to do so to participate in the food bank collection from 26 to 28 November, with which the French Red Cross is associated as every year. And for all those who have a bit of spare time, don’t hesitate to join our team of volunteers!
More information – https://www.croix-rouge.fr/ – https://www.banquealimentaire.org/collectenationale
Get involved – https://www.croix-rouge.fr/Je-m-engage
Make a donation – https://donner.croix-rouge.fr/faire-un-don/~my-donation