Over 3 million Ukrainians have fled their war-torn country ever since Russian aggression began. And Poland is the country that has welcomed the majority of these refugees. According to the official data from the Polish Border Guard, since the 24th of February over 2,1 million Ukrainians have entered Poland – mainly women and children. The Polish Center for International Aid (PCPM) from the very beginning of the war actively helps the Ukrainian civilian population – both in Ukraine and in Poland.
PCPM rolls out pilot of the Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance program for Ukrainian refugees, with the first 50 families enrolled in Lublin. Thanks to the funding support from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) and CARE USA, PCPM rolls out Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance program for an initial group of 7,000 Ukrainian refugee families, using the assistance rates and eligibility criteria set by the Cash Working Group for Poland.
– The PCPM Foundation has been running a similar aid program for Syrian refugees in Lebanon for 10 years. This is the experience that we will use in Lublin and Rzeszów, where we will cover thousands of refugees from Ukraine with humanitarian aid in the form of cash benefits. It can be used to buy food and cover basic needs. It is worth emphasizing that this program is neither a burden for the Polish budget nor for Polish taxpayers, and is financed by international donors – says Dr. Wojciech Wilk, CEO of the PCPM Foundation and the UN expert on humanitarian crises.
The program initially includes the city of Lublin, with Rzeszów selected for the second stage. Cash assistance is expected to last three months as immediate assistance and bridge financing while the refugee families are being enrolled in the Government of Poland’s social security system. As PCPM claims, it has a pipeline of over 30,000 ATMs cards available for cash assistance programs in Poland and Ukraine.
Cash for Work program for Ukrainian refugees and students in Poland
Major cities in Poland are overwhelmed with the refugee influx. The capital city Warsaw, with approx. population of 2 million, has reportedly taken in 400,000 refugees, while Lublin, pop. 350,000, has taken in 60,000 refugees.
PCPM plans to employ Ukrainian refugees, as well as Ukrainian students, to assist local authorities in a speedy roll-out of social services, the inclusion of refugee children into elementary and secondary schools, and psychosocial support. Thanks to the funding support from CARE USA, PCPM will roll out Cash for Work programs in Lublin, with Warsaw and Wroclaw selected for the second stage.
Additional employees are needed to speed up the registration of Ukrainian refugees with the Polish social security system (PESEL social security number). City authorities of Warsaw estimated it may take them even 6 months to get PESEL social security number to all refugees in the city.
Buses take refugees and bring medicines on the backway
PCPM alongside other humanitarian organizations continues to facilitate bus transportation from Eastern Ukraine for most vulnerable civilians who have no host families in Western Ukraine. The buses are unable to travel through Kyiv as the major roads west of Ukraine’s capital as in the zone of active fighting. Since the beginning of the war the PCPM Country Office in Ukraine assisted over 3,000 civilians in evacuation from Kharkiv. The office was relocated from Kharkiv to Kremenchuk on the first day of the war and now operates an Internally Displaced People (IDP) transit center near Kremenchuk with a daily capacity of 150 persons. The buses returning from Poland to central and eastern Ukraine carry humanitarian aid. PCPM received in Lviv an Inter Agency Health Kit (IAHK) and 5 Trauma Kits donated by German NGO Apotheker Ohne Grenzen; they are being transported to Kharkiv and Kyiv.
The Polish Emergency Medical Team PCPM (EMT PCPM) also participated in the evacuation of over 200 pediatric cancer patients from Ukraine to Poland, organized by the Polish Government. In addition, the EMT assessed hospitals in Zhytomir, Ivano-Frankovsk and Khmelnitskyi. Polish EMT PCPM operates an ambulance in Western Ukraine that conducted a medical evacuation of patients with leukemia, as well as a student from Congo. This medevac capacity will be linked to the medevac system managed by the WHO and the Ukrainian Ministry of Health.
Shelter for each Ukrainian refugee
Despite the influx of over 2 million refugees, Poland did not have to create any refugee camp, and all Ukrainians found shelter in Poles’ private homes or in temporary places of stay. Most of these points are provided and financed by local governments and charities.
In collaboration with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), PCPM also participates in the management of an improved refugee transit center located next to the Warszawa Wschodnia (Warsaw-East) railway station. The transit center, implemented jointly by the City Authority of Warsaw, NRC and PCPM, will cater for some 5,000 refugees per day with services ranging from hot meals, travel planning, psycho-social assistance, child-friendly spaces to medical assistance. Construction of the transit center commenced on Monday, 21st of March and will finish before the end of the week.
– At the Warszawa Wschodnia railway station, a transit center for refugees is being built, where they will be able to rest and obtain basic information before moving on. Huge tents are erected by the Norwegian Refugee Council, and the center will be managed by the PCPM Foundation. In addition, the Great Orchestra of Christmas Charity Foundation will provide refugees with temporary accommodation from a few to 48 hours. We initially predict that this center will be operational for 3 months- adds Dr. Wojciech Wilk, CEO of the PCPM Foundation and the UN expert on humanitarian crises.
PCPM is launching also an educational and community center for Ukrainian refugees located in a ground floor of a former headquarters of one of the commercial banks in a prime location in Warsaw. Activities include speech therapy, psychosocial assistance, sensory integration, catch-up classes, day school and Polish language classes. In the next weeks, PCPM will add activities for Ukrainian refugee women, including Polish language classes and assistance in finding employment. The center is operated entirely by Ukrainian refugee teachers and specialists.