Dorcas Romania’s targeted response

As soon as the full-scale war in Ukraine started, Dorcas Romania set up a humanitarian aid project for refugees. ‘We knew that many Ukrainians who feared for their lives would come to neighbouring countries’, says country director Attila Daray. ‘Right now, Romania has about 550,000 refugees, the second-largest number after Poland. This is a completely new situation. We’ve never had a refugee crisis like this before.’

During the first days of the war, many organisations and churches went to the borders with food and other products. Dorcas has a large network in Romania, and right from the start, it focussed on a targeted response such as mobilising partners and volunteers to help provide refugee shelters.


Transporting essential items to Ukraine

Initially, there was a lot of planning and purchasing to be done. However, Dorcas’ efforts are not limited to the situation in Romania. ‘We also transport goods to our colleagues in Ukraine. Their office in western Ukraine is about 300 kilometres from ours. They send us a list of the food and non-food items needed, and we try to organise the transport’, explains Daray. But finding these items is not always easy, as Romania already has a food shortage. That is mainly due to internal developments before the war, such as truck driver strikes and people stockpiling certain items.


Real and immediate need

Dorcas now operates a large-scale humanitarian aid programme, and our focus is on refugees’ real and immediate needs. Many of them are transiting through Romania, so giving them a kilogram of flour or rice is not particularly helpful. Instead, we provide them with food they can easily eat on their journey, hygiene items, sleeping mats and cash.

‘Refugees stay in Romania for an average of two or three days before moving on’, says Daray. While resting in the shelter, they decide where they want to go. Many travel to Germany, Austria, Poland, Spain and Italy, but they often change their minds before they leave. They are in contact with family members or friends who have already arrived in other countries and tell them they should come too.

Now that the project is up and running, Dorcas can also provide counselling, and in most shelters, there is day care for children too. ‘We also inform the refugees about the dangers of human trafficking. This is particularly important because most refugees are women and children, as men aged 18 to 60 are not permitted to leave Ukraine’, explains Daray. Meanwhile, we continue to run our regular projects as best we can because the people we help in those will often be the first to suffer from a future food or energy crisis.


One day at a time

The hardest thing in this situation is anticipating future developments, Daray says. ‘How many refugees we can still expect depends, of course, on how the war evolves. But we try to take things one day at a time. We pray for the people in Ukraine and thank God for the opportunities we have to help the refugees who come our way.’

25 March 2022