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As an aid organisation present in Ukraine for 25 years, Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) was able to immediately start its aid programme both in Ukraine and in Hungary. In a matter of days it set up refugee support points providing food and hygiene kits as well as information on both sides of the border, launched a fundraising campaign, prepared the logistical background of aid consignments and reorganised parts of its institutional network and staff to welcome incoming refugees. 

In addition to its headquarters in Berehove, HIA has set up offices in Kyiv and Lviv, through which the organisation and its partners provide all kinds of assistance to people in need throughout Ukraine. Thanks to its embeddedness and more than two decades of local experience, HIA plays a leading role in the humanitarian response of ACT Alliance – an international coalition of aid organisations – in Ukraine.

In the first weeks of the conflict, truck after truck crossed the border, delivering aid consignments consisting mainly of durable food, hygiene and childcare items and medicine. A large part of the aid is distributed among the community shelters for displaced people – today there are more than 250 such shelters, mainly in the Zakarpattia region of Ukraine. Many of these also received household appliances and equipment such as washing machines and refrigerators. In total, over 1000 tons of aid was transported into Ukraine, distributed all over the war-torn country in 12 regions, from the west to as far as the frontlines of Zaporizhzhia in the east, where HIA partner organisations are active. In cooperation with several other NGOs in Ukraine HIA also provides psychosocial assistance to families affected by the trauma of war in several regions of the country, and has launched two modalities of cash transfers (multipurpose and cash for protection) together with international partners to help the displaced in a dignified way.

Ever since the first refugees arrived to Hungary in February, the staff and volunteers of Hungarian Interchurch Aid have been providing food, water, hygiene products and various in-kind donations to the people fleeing the war upon their arrival and during their stay as well in multiple locations. Families staying in Hungary for a temporary period are accommodated in HIA-rented apartments and hotel rooms as well as in its converted institutions, where the organisation also provides them with psychosocial support. The incoming refugees are met with hospitality in the transit hub dedicated for refugees arriving to Budapest by train at BOK Arena. This hub is operated by 6 charitable organisations, and is coordinated by Hungarian Interchurch Aid. Here refugees arriving by train receive food, drinks, help in traveling further, and can also apply for accommodation, different services and register themselves with the authorities if they wish to stay longer. Those travelling further were also assisted at Liszt Ferenc International Airport in Budapest, where HIA has created a child-friendly space for the little ones waiting to get on their planes and also facilitates all necessary paperwork for adults.

In recent months, the services HIA provides for refugees have been integrated, and are now supported by the newly created Support Centre for Ukrainian Refugees in the heart of Budapest. From giving out all kinds of information, organising various programmes and courses to the distribution of in-kind donations, the Support Centre aims to cover all issues refugees can face while living in Hungary. In Budapest, Debrecen, Szombathely, Aggtelek and the idyllic village of Kastélyosdombó, Hungarian Interchurch Aid organised several summer camps for around 200 refugee children coming from all over Ukraine. In addition to providing a great variety of exciting recreational programmes, these camps also put great emphasis on processing the traumas of children arriving from the warzones of. Bucha, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Donetsk and Kherson, providing respite from the horrors of war – even if only for a short time.

The extraordinary efforts of HIA are supported by a coalition of donors, volunteers, corporate partners, churches and the Hungarian government, which allows for a quick and effective response to the ever-changing needs and demands HIA faces in this crisis. As the war goes on with no end in sight, HIA also needs to focus on rebuilding and redevelopment of the former warzones, thus has started several long-term development projects. Thanks to the strategic partnership with the Hungarian Government, HIA received funding for the renovation of a school in Zahal’tsi, Borodyanka Municipality and the building of a healthcare facility with added post and local government functions, as well as a kindergarten and several container homes for those who have lost their homes.