Before the COVID-19 quarantine Anastasia used to work in a coffee shop, but she is now unpaid leave due to COVID-19 restrictions and need cash assistance to get food.

Ukrainian displaced get food thanks to cash assistance during COVID-19

In Ukraine many internally displaced persons struggle to maintain an income during the COVID-19 crisis. DRC assists with cash assistance to make sure they can get food and other necessary items. Read about three of the affected people, that we have assisted.

Anastasia's story

Anastasia is a 24 years old Internally Displaced Person (IDP) from town Shakhtarsk, Donetsk NGCA. In 2018, she relocated to Sloviansk and currently studies in a local Pedagogical University. As Anastasia comes from the poor family, she has to earn her own living, pay for the rent and cover study costs. Before the quarantine Anastasia used to work in “Prosto Kava” coffee shop, that expanded as a result of DRC-DDG’ support and created several new jobs. Anastasia’s monthly average income was around 6,000 UAH, which was enough to cover the majority of her living costs.  

Unfortunately, due to the quarantine restrictions imposed by the Ukrainian government, the coffee shop had to limit its work to coffee-to-go activity only. This resulted in more than 50% decrease in income of the mentioned business and the owners had to send most of the staff, including Anastasia, to unpaid leaves from late March 2020. 

Anastasia’s savings were enough only to cover her daily expenses within the first week of quarantine. In early April, her parents sent her 2,000 UAH, which were enough for some more time. Afterwards, having no other support, she had to take a micro-loan from a bank on her credit card. She rents an apartment with a roommate and currently doesn’t have enough resources to pay her part of the rent and utilities. Anastasia also had to reduce food consumption and other basic expenses. These financial difficulties matched with quarantine restrictions and social distancing are having a negative impact on Anastasia’s psychological well-being, as she feels anxiety and despair.  

She has not yet applied for social benefits as nobody, including her, expected the quarantine would last that long. The explanations provided by the Ukrainian government were often vague and confusing. Now, together with providing the cash assistance, DRC-DDG will advise her to apply for state IDP benefits and unemployment benefits in order to mobilise some more help. 

The cash grant will allow Anastasia to buy food supplies, pay for the rent and utilities and also spend some money on necessary hygiene items. This will also reduce the risk of her adopting some more negative coping strategies, in addition to reducing the food rations. DRC-DDG believes that after the uplift of the quarantine, the coffee-shop will re-open, as it used to be a profitable business, and employ Anastasia back. This is expected to happen sometimes in June 2020, however, more immediate one or two-months cash grant support is vital for Anastasia to survive and meet her basic needs. 

Olena's story

Olena is a 36-years-old IDP from Luhansk. In 2014, she moved to Lysychansk with her husband and their newborn daughterNow they live in a rented apartment and the main source of the household income is Olena’s business – homemade cakes and confectionary. Olena’s family is not eligible for IDP benefits, as her husband formally owns 13 square meters of living space in his parent’s house in a government controlled area. 

Before the quarantine restrictions were imposed by the Ukrainian government, Olena used to generate up to 7,000 UAH per month via self-employment. Due to COVID-19 situation, the number of orders has decreased more than two-foldSome customers cancelled even those orders that were placed before the quarantine, as everyone started to save as much money as possible. The closure of cafes and restaurants have also significantly contributed to the loss of income by Olena’s family. 

Before the closure of national borders, Olena's husband worked in Poland and was forced to return home. It was his first work abroad, and he has only managed to earn approximately 3,000 UAH, meaning that he has returned home without savingsWhen the borders will re-open, he wants to return in Poland, but now it is not clear when he will have such an opportunity and will also need to restorhis working permit. Now he is trying to find temporary work in Lysychansk, but with no success so far.  

The family had not yet applied for social benefits as nobody expected the quarantine would last that long. Plus, Olena’s family as the majority of IDPs, have a very low level of trust towards Ukrainian authorities, due to complicated procedures and lack of proper explanations as to what type of benefits they might be eligible. Now, along with the cash assistance, DRC-DDG will advise the family to apply for unemployment benefits to mobilise some more assistance. 

The current income of the family after COVID-19 is approximately UAH 3,000. It is lower than the minimum subsistence rate and, in order to cope with the situation, the family had to decrease food consumption. For the moment, they have no clear plan how to cover the rent and utility costs and afford other necessary expenses, rather than basic food items. 

The cash grant provided by DRC-DDG will allow Olena, her husband and their 6-year daughter to re-stock the food supplies, pay for utilities and also spend some money on hygiene items. DRC-DDG believes that after the uplift of the quarantine, the number of Olena's customers will increase again and her husband will return to his work in Poland, thus stabilizing their livelihoods situation. However, this process may take several months and the current cash grant support is going to be very important for Olena's family to survive this difficult period.  

Svitlana's story

Svitlana is a 54-year-old IDP relocated from Luhansk and now she rents the apartment in Popasna town. Before the quarantine, she used to work as a waitress in a local café, supported by LAP to create new jobs and her monthly average income was UAH 4,700. Svitlana lives with her daughter (a single mother) and a grandson of 11 years old. Unfortunately, all the family members suffer from chronic diseases. 

In February 2020, Svitlana had to undergo surgery and had to take a sick leave. The surgery, treatment, and following complications made the family to borrow from friends and accrue a debt of UAH 14,000. Svitlana planned to be back to work by end-March 2020, but due to quarantine restrictions and the temporary closure of the café, she has to stay at home for an uncertain period, without any income. 

Currently, the family survives on Svitlana’s daughter’s salary (UAH 4,000) and a temporary single mother benefits (UAH 2,000)In parallel to the accrued debt, the family spends UAH 2,000 monthly for the treatment of Svitlana’s and her grandson’s chronic diseases. The situation in the family is critical, as for they have difficult times to cover food, rent/utilities and medical costs, putting them in danger to accumulate even higher debt, exposing the family members to negative survival strategies.   

Svitlana has not yet applied for social benefits because she had prior negative experience with state institutions, and also lacks understanding of the necessary procedures. Therefore, along with financial assistance, DRC-DDG will support her to apply for state benefits for IDPs and unemployment benefits via employment centresThe cash grant support will allow Svitlana’s family to stabilize their livelihoods situation for the next two-month period, that may be crucial to survive and undertake efforts to restore stable income source via employment. 

Thanks for support

DRC can provide these families with cash to cover basic needs like food supplies, utility payments and hygiene items thanks to generous support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID).