Cash assistance provides vital, dignified support for Ukrainians

23 February 2023

Red Cross cash assistance is providing much needed support to the people of Ukraine affected by conflict.  

February 24, marks one year since the escalation of the conflict, and people have endured mass displacement, devastation and loss of life. The humanitarian needs of those affected in Ukraine, neighbouring countries and beyond, continue to rise.

Red Cross cash assistance provides vital support

Our international delegate, information systems specialist Natalie Gyles, spent three months in countries bordering Ukraine - Hungary, Poland, Moldova and Romania, working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), in 2022.  She has played an essential role in setting up an extensive Red Cross cash assistance programme. While she was in the role, over 10 million euros (just over NZD$17 million) was delivered to individuals and families affected by the conflict.

 International delegate, information systems specialist, Natalie Gyles

The roll-out of the programme continued after Natalie completed her work. As of February 2023, 861,945 people affected by the crisis in Ukraine and across Europe, had received multi-purpose cash assistance from the Red Cross Red Crescent. The equivalent of just over NZD$143.5 million (82,740,535 million Swiss francs) has been distributed.

How emergency cash assistance helps

Emergency cash assistance is fast. It can be used immediately. It doesn't sit at the border or a port waiting to be cleared, and it doesn't block urgent aid from arriving. Cash allows individuals and families to purchase essential items, while also helping to stimulate local economies. It offers dignified support. When people receive cash they can decide for themselves what emergency relief items and necessities they most want to use the money on.

The UN estimates over 17 million people have fled Ukraine across Europe in search of protection and safety, with seven million have been forced to move within Ukraine to find shelter and escape danger. That equates to more than one-third of the total Ukrainian population.

Displaced people face new challenges, including finding everyday necessities to survive. They have lost livelihoods, homes, possessions, clothes and often access to any savings they may have had.

Millions of Ukrainians are now displaced in many different locations, often far away from urban city centres, making it difficult to receive financial support through traditional face-to-face ways.

Mobile app transforms access to cash

To address this, Natalie and the Red Cross Red Crescent cash team rolled out the use of a mobile phone app, originally developed for the Romanian Red Cross. The app transformed the ability to register people and provide assistance at scale for Romania and Poland with smaller distributions in Slovakia and Hungary.

“People who have fled the conflict in Ukraine are not all in one place. They are spread throughout many countries – in villages, on farms and remote rural communities as well as the big cities. Offering a mobile phone app allows eligible people to register for assistance online from wherever they are, without needing to travel to a central registration location,” says Natalie.

The self-registration app asks a series of questions to determine the needs of individuals or families. It uses smartphone GPS to determine the location of the person registering for assistance, and takes several photos on the smartphone, to check identity documents and identity of the person.  If the applicant is approved, they can collect money directly or receive it into their bank account.  This self-registration process enables quick responses and ensures those who are in urgent need get access to the cash assistance they require.

International delegates contribute specialist skills

As well as rolling out the app, Natalie’s work included setting up digital communication methods using chatbots alongside traditional call centres so the whole system can work at scale.

Ukrainians receiving cash assistance

Along with local Red Cross staff and 100,000 volunteers, international delegates from many National Societies around the world are contributing their skills and experience to support the response, either in Ukraine or countries across Europe.

Natalie was the second delegate New Zealand Red Cross sent to the region. Security specialist John Dyer, spent five weeks in West Ukraine in April 2022 as a security coordinator, setting up a framework to ensure the safety of Red Cross workers.

International delegate, security specialist, John Dyer. 

Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal

Thanks to the generosity of New Zealanders who donated to our Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. As of January 2023, we have raised NZD$4.6 million. This has enabled us to send over NZD$4 million to our International Red Cross partners to support their work on the ground, and to send two of our specialist international delegates to assist the response in the region.

More donations are needed as the conflict continues and more people face injury, loss of life, hardship and displacement.

Have you lost contact with loved ones in Ukraine?

  • Our Restoring Family Links team is on standby to receive enquiries from people living in Aotearoa New Zealand who have lost contact with loved ones due to the disaster. Find missing family overseas
  • We also have social media resources available in several languages including Ukrainian.

How you can get involved