IOM support reaches thousands of Ukraine’s most vulnerable in Lithuania
Vilnius - Full-scale war in Ukraine in the last year has forced millions of people to leave everything behind and search for safety and shelter in neighbouring countries. In Lithuania, a country that has welcomed more than 74,000 Ukrainians to date, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) has been at the forefront of the Ukraine crisis response, providing timely assistance to the most vulnerable, including single mothers, persons with disabilities, and older people.
,,Over the past 12 months, the war in Ukraine has claimed thousands of lives, caused enormous devastation, and forced countless people to flee their homes,” says Eitvydas Bingelis, Head of IOM Lithuania. ,,IOM works tirelessly to support the most vulnerable people, including through cash-based initiatives, free accommodation, English language courses, and psychological counselling. We have helped hundreds of people coming from Ukraine, and we aim to continue.”
In Lithuania, IOM has supported 623 families (i.e.1,452 individuals) with EUR 157,000 in cash assistance. Cash-based initiatives seek to empower people to meet their basic needs, while indirectly supporting the local economy.
In addition, over the past five months, more than 100 people benefited from temporary accommodation, totalling close to 2,600 nights.
“Many people left Ukraine in a rush, without a clear plan, not knowing what they would do next. Some would call us from the Lithuanian border saying they had no place to stay and needed to find something quickly,” says Eglė Staškunaitė, Head of IOM Lithuania’s Migrant Assistance and Crisis Management Unit. “IOM, though its partnership with the accommodation platform Airbnb helps those newly arrived from Ukraine to find temporary housing.”
In addition to English language courses for 120 Ukrainians, IOM organized five seminars on social, employment and medical issues for more than 5,000 Ukrainians and TCNs. Over 2,200 consultation sessions were provided to those needing support with they paperwork.
Several seminars and conferences for educators were also held, attracting more than 500 participants.
“Our research indicates that educators lack knowledge on how to work in multicultural environments. It is particularly important to address this issue as the number of foreign pupils who joined Lithuanian schools has increased almost ten-fold, from 1,700 to more than 16,000, in recent months. The Lithuanian education system faces many challenges, but these pupils need to feel welcomed and given the opportunity to learn,” says Bingelis.
To strengthen psychological health services, IOM organised training for 145 psychologists and 200 social workers from Ukraine. Free psychological counselling is provided by IOM psychologists in cooperation with local medical services. A psychological support hotline is also available to those fleeing from the war in Ukraine to Lithuania, with counselling available in Ukrainian, Russian and English. Seeking for psychosocial support is on rise as 31 per cent of the internally displaced persons in Ukraine surveyed by IOM confirmed interest to receive emotional support.
In Lithuania, IOM’s Ukraine crisis response received financial support from the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Refugees and Migrants, the United Kingdom’s Foreign Commonwealth and Commonwealth Development Office, and the accommodation platform Airbnb.
An estimated 18 million people - 40% of Ukraine’s population - need humanitarian assistance. According to the United Nations, more than 7,100 civilians have been killed, but the actual figure could be considerably higher. Almost 8 million people have fled Ukraine and some 5.4 million are internally displaced.