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Fearing winter in Ukraine

Roofs are ruined, doors and windows broken. Many homes in the northern Ukrainian city of Chernihiv were destroyed during the Russian invasion in March. City residents fear winter. “We are going to get started with repairs like crazy,” says Kees-Jan Hooglander, Disaster Response Team member at ZOA.

ZOA supports Ukrainians with house repairs

A head start before winter arrives 

The Russians have withdrawn from the city, but the damage in Chernihiv is enormous. The Ukrainian city, north of Kiev, was bombed in March. Home repairs are urgently needed with a cold winter ahead. 

"Repairing is a risk," admits Kees-Jan Hooglander. Together with three other colleagues from ZOA's Disaster Response Team, he has been organizing emergency aid in Ukraine since the start of the war. “There is a chance that the Russians will come back and everything will be shot to pieces again. But if we don't act, residents will die of cold this winter. And that is not an option.”

Chernihiv is located in the north and has temperatures of -20 degrees Celsius in winter. “That's really serious,” says Kees-Jan. “It is very cold there from December to February. We notice that the inhabitants are starting to get nervous for winter. There are many returnees among them. They are trying with all their might to find a good shelter for that cold period.”

There is an urgent need to repair the houses, he says. “You can't do that in a week. We are going to get started right away.” In addition to time pressure, the availability of building materials is also a challenge, he says. “Everyone now wants to have materials. Prices are rising and stocks are limited.”

Cash transfers 

ZOA will offer residents cash transfers to help restore their homes as efficiently and effectively as possible. This is organised in the same way as ZOA has been providing emergency aid to displaced persons in Zakarpattia, in western Ukraine, for several months now. Many people have fled to that area from the east, where fighting is still ongoing. “The cash transfers work very well,” says Kees-Jan. “We will continue to use this method.”

In Zakarpattia, ZOA registers the most vulnerable people via churches for this aid of 70 euros per person per month. They can collect that amount at a MoneyGram cash office by presenting a unique code and their identity card. They mainly spend this money on medicines, food, rent and hygiene items.

More money is needed to restore houses. For some more than for others. “We only help with minor repairs, such as repairing roofs and installing doors and windows,” explains Kees-Jan. “We cannot restore entire apartment buildings.”

The ZOA team has arranged it in such a way that people who need it can collect 2000 euros for repair costs in one go. “There are many do-it-yourselfers in Ukraine”, Kees-Jan knows. “With the help of family and friends, many people can make repairs to their own homes.”

To ensure that the amount is spent on repairs, they receive the money in two tranches: one part to start the work and one part when they are halfway through. They will also be held accountable afterwards.

"Of course there are ways to mislead us," says Kees-Jan. “But I think the chance of abuse is very small. People are so nervous about winter that I can't imagine them spending the money on other things. The need is great and I expect many people to use this help gratefully in a good way.”

Two areas

In the near future, ZOA will be working in two areas in Ukraine: among displaced persons in Zakarpattia and among residents and returnees in Chernihiv. “I think ZOA will stay in Ukraine for the next three to five years,” says Kees-Jan. “The situation remains very difficult and the need is high.”