They bring with them terrifying accounts of blaring sirens, nights spent hiding in basements and missiles whistling overhead.
As the number of people desperately fleeing Ukraine passes 1 million and the United Nations warn that “at this rate” we are facing “the biggest refugee crisis this century”, we are announcing a major expansion in the charities that will benefit from our appeal as part of our Refugees Welcome campaign.
From today, all new funds raised will go to the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) Ukrainian Humanitarian Appeal, launched this morning, which is bringing together 13 leading UK aid charities, including the Red Cross and Save the Children, the two groups we have supported so far.
And the good news is that every £ donated by you, our readers, for the DEC appeal will be match-funded pound-for-pound by the UK Government up to £20 million.
The DEC was set-up to co-ordinate humanitarian aid for overseas disasters and will ensure that your money is quickly and efficiently disseminated to the DEC charities and their local partners to urgently help people displaced from their homes in Ukraine - or fleeing across the border into Poland, Romania, Hungary, Moldova and Slovakia.
Almost £120,000 has been raised jointly in the first 48 hours by our campaign and that of our sister title, The Evening Standard, and this money will be split between the Red Cross and Save the Children. But from this moment on, every pound donated by the UK public will go to the DEC for dissemination to all 13 member charities and will be matched by the UK government through its Aid Match scheme.
The Independent has also set up a petition calling on the UK government to be at the forefront of the international community offering aid and support to those in Ukraine. To sign the petition click here.
Meanwhile Daniel Stewart, head of news for Save the Children, sent this exclusive despatch to us from the frontline.
He said: “I watched as a constant procession of refugees trudged across the border into Romania. Most were women and children, many had been travelling for days. One family with three children under 10 had been travelling for four days, sleeping where they could, before waiting fifteen hours to cross.
“On the Romanian side, Save the Children staff and volunteers handed out food, clothes, nappies, blankets and essentials. Children played in a reception centre space run by Save the Children - a room with toys and craft materials where children can just be children.
“I watched as a four-year-old girl made friends with another girl, also a refugee from Ukraine. They made bracelets together. Her mother recounted how they had fled, scared in the face of Russian attacks, but that her husband had stayed behind and that they could only bring a few clothes. Sheer exhaustion was mixed with relief at being safe and fear and uncertainty about the future.”
The DEC’s 13 member charities who will receive our funds are: Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, International Rescue Committee UK, Oxfam, Save the Children UK, Plan International UK, and World Vision UK.
The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we first ran our Refugees Welcome campaign during the war in Syria in 2015. Now, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition in the wake of the unfolding Ukrainian crisis, we are calling on the government to go further and faster to ensure help is delivered. To find out more about our Refugees Welcome campaign, click here. To sign the petition click here. If you would like to donate then please click here for our GoFundMe page.
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