Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) and its partners are very concerned about the intensifying military strikes on the Ukrainian population and infrastructure. As winter approaches, the disruption or loss of communal services pose an unprecedented challenge to humanitarian organisations. Meeting the most basic needs has already been difficult for thousands of internally displaced people in Ukraine, which HIA has been trying to alleviate through its cash assistance programmes, reaching close to 10,000 individuals since its start. However, the potential long-term loss of utilities will increase the needs and hardships of the most vulnerable in Ukraine.

"The current apartment is without heating. I need to find some sort of a furnace or a boiler," says an elderly woman registering for financial assistance. "My mother is in hospital. She had a stroke," explains a young man.

Most people have become penniless overnight. Their financial reserves can no longer cover their growing monthly expenses. “We face different problems every day. In many cases, among other issues, IDPs have health problems to deal with,” summarises HIA’s enumerator officer what she experiences in the registration process. In the face of the relentlessly approaching winter, the people in need have to allocate more and more from the meagre financial reserves they have.

HIA started the registration process for the new phase of its Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance (MPCA) programme in the Lviv region just a week before the Russian Federation began its strikes at the country’s infrastructure, causing partial or total power and water outages in several cities and areas. The heating and power outages are feared to exacerbate the crisis further if the attacks continue in the future.

The heating season started on 15 October in Ukraine where district and electric heating provide warmth in the chilling, often sub-zero temperatures. On the cash aid forms submitted to HIA, in addition to basic needs (food, housing, medicine), people in need indicated buying winter clothing and preparing for the cold as the intended use of financial aid.

HIA and its partners established MPCA precisely for such changing circumstances; to empower people in need in deciding how to use the aid they receive, as they know best “where the shoe pinches.” With the developments of the war, their needs may well expand: internally displaced people may use their monthly cash grants to pay for utilities or, in the event of heating and electricity outages, to buy electric heaters, electric generators and battery-powered lights.

In the video below, HIA has collected personal stories to illustrate the everyday struggles and needs of IDPs and why Multi-Purpose Cash Assistance is one of the most effective ways of help.

To understand the needs even better, HIA also conducted a survey in several locations of the  Kharkiv region, assessing the preparedness of the surveyed for the winter and the next six months. The results allow the organization to provide localized responses best serving the affected population. Thus, HIA is supplying heaters and is insulating shelters within the framework of so-called winterisation projects to help the Ukrainian population get through the looming cold and find refuge from “General Winter”.