Holodomor, Ukraine from yesterday to today.

Starving peasants on a street in Kharkiv, 1933. @Alexander Wienerberger

On Saturday 26 November, Ukraine commemorated the 90th anniversary of the Holodomor, the starvation of 4-5 million Ukrainians on Stalin’s orders (“law of ears of corn”) in 1932 and 1933. At the time, the CPSU (Communist Party of the Soviet Union) and state authorities conducted a campaign of food requisition and travel restrictions to starve the population. While Ukrainians were dying in large numbers, the USSR was exporting 3.3 million tons of grain in 1933. Destroying Ukraine and collectivising the peasants’ land was Stalin’s objective, and we know his sinister maxim: “The death of one man is a tragedy. The death of a million men is a statistic”.

Today in Ukraine, the systematic destruction of the electricity, gas and water infrastructure is attacking the Ukrainian population at the time of the first snowfall and freezing cold. A war that has already driven 7.8 million Ukrainians out of their homes and 6.5 million internally displaced out of a population of 44 million! War is a reality, but war has laws which are those of the Geneva Conventions and International Humanitarian Law (IHL). On 18 November in Dublin, 83 States adopted an international agreement to better protect civilians against the use of explosive weapons in populated areas at the initiative of the NGO Humanity and Inclusion (HI) in the framework of the International Network on Explosive Weapons (INEW).

Today, as we commemorate the millions who died of hunger during the Holodomor, let us show solidarity with their descendants who live under the bombs in the cold and snow. But, as we must not confuse everything, it is not forbidden to love Russian literature, music, cinema, painting, Dostoyevsky, Kandinsky, Tolstoy, Eisenstein, Bulgakov, Solzhenitsyn, Andrei Rublev, Rimsky Korsakov, Bondartchuk, Tchaikovsky and many others.

Borodianka, Kyiv Oblast. Photo: Oleksandr Ratushniak / UNDP Ukraine

From yesterday to today.

In memory of the Holodomor, President Volodymyr Zelensky has launched the “Grain from Ukraine” operation, which plans to send 60 Ukrainian ships loaded with grain to countries such as Yemen, Sudan and Somalia by the summer. This will be possible thanks to the extension for 120 days of the Black Sea initiative, with the agreement of Russia. This agreement has already allowed the export of 15 million tonnes of Ukrainian grain, i.e. 70% of stocks. This initiative is all the more welcome as we are witnessing a dangerous deterioration in the food supply of the population in many countries.

With the onset of the harsh winter in Ukraine, with destruction mounting and with around a quarter of the population currently without electricity, humanitarian aid must be deployed more than ever before wherever it is urgently needed. If the beginning, 10 months ago, were slow, with an initial phase of disorganisation due to the evacuation of personnel, and while large organisations were taking a long time to act, today the number of actors involved is significant.

According to OCHA* , as of 10 November, there are 414 Ukrainian NGOs, 111 international NGOs, 50 governments, 11 UN agencies and 9 international organisations with national coordination in Kiev and operational coordination in Dnipro in the east. And the humanitarian funding is there. Thierry Mauricet, PUI’s General Director, is leading a 68 million dollar consortium with partners such as ACF, HI, TGH and SI.

When one reads the report on French aid organised by the Centre of Crisis and Support of the Ministry of Europe and Foreign Affairs**, one gets a better idea of the various forms of support to Ukraine. According to the FTS, (Financial Tracking Service) the budget for the Ukrainian crisis would be 5 billion dollars this year. That’s a lot, but it’s not much when compared to the estimated costs of rebuilding destroyed infrastructure and housing.

The positive news, which needs to be confirmed, is that the mobilisation of humanitarian funding for Ukraine has not reduced funding for the other major crises (Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, …..). This year, the European Commission (523 ME) and the member countries of the European Union alone have mobilised almost 957 million euros for humanitarian aid for Ukraine (174 ME for Afghanistan, 170 for Yemen, 150.7 for Syria) and the European Commission has just proposed a global funding plan of 18 billion euros in 2023.

On the other hand, there is a strong message to be sent to the financial institutions which are partners of humanitarian organisations. As François Grünewald points out in his recent evaluation***, the importance of municipalities in the relief effort and the weakness, if not the absence, of adapted mechanisms. This is what Emmanuel Rinck, director of missions at Solidarités International, recommends. According to him, it is necessary to adapt the partnership frameworks of donors to allow and facilitate cooperation on the ground with Ukrainian actors such as municipalities and even volunteer groups.

Medical workers treat the wounds of Volodymyr Nikiforov, 40, who was injured by shelling near Barvenkove, in a hospital in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine. (AP Photo/Evgeniy Maloletka)

Let’s not forget anyone !

While Ukraine has been in the headlines since 24 February, let us not forget any of the crises that threaten so many populations in danger around the world. Once again this year, in Humanitarian Challenges, we have reported on Afghanistan, Syria, Mali, Sahel, Burkina Faso and of course Ukraine, while analysing issues such as food security, access to drinking water and sanitation, the management of humanitarian aid waste, the environment-development-humanitarian nexus, the link between climate change and water, and the pooling of logistical capacities.

This year, we have published twelve editions and 48 articles or interviews by as many authors whom we thank for their involvement and the interest of their analysis. You can find these articles archived in our permanent sections on the home page.

I would like to thank the readers who have placed their trust in us by following our publications every month and passing them on to their colleagues and friends. I would also like to personally thank the donors who generously support (HelloAsso) the existence and activity of Défis Humanitaires, which will soon be celebrating its 5th anniversary and 71 editions. A big thank you to you and happy holidays.

Alain Boinet.

* Ukraine: 5W operational presence 

**Ukraine War : french humanitarian actions (doc in French)

*** Ukraine evaluation report 


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