Our work in Ukraine has changed since February 2022 due to the uncertain situation, setbacks encountered, and safety concerns for our employees in Lviv and in the Carpathians. Despite the challenges, we have been able to make progress.
FZS Ukraine adapts
Building on long-term partnerships, the FZS Ukraine branch was established this year and greatly enhanced our ability to operate and upscale support to protected areas during this time of need. Our team has grown since then and their dedication to conserving the natural gems of the Carpathians is unwavering despite the challenges faced.
FZS has worked with national partners to protect Ukraine’s natural heritage for over 20 years in the Carpathians and Polesia. For the first few months after the escalation of war in Ukraine, protected areas became safe places for people seeking shelter. During those early months when humanitarian organizations were not yet active, FZS and long-term partners were able to provide emergency support to Internally Displaced People (IDPs).
Working with 19 protected areas we were able to set up over a thousand lodging spaces for IDPs in the Carpathians and Polesia since February. From May to October, we provided support – non-perishable food and hygiene products – for approximately 4,300 people, of which roughly 800 were staying at protected area facilities and 3,500 were spread across 30 individual centers in the adjacent communities. Over 40 metric tons of goods – including warm clothing, generators, heaters, and bedding – were sent to Ukraine’s protected areas through a joint effort with our partners in Romania, Slovakia, and Germany. Another 37 metric tons of provisions and supplies were provided from within Ukraine.
Six months later we shifted our support to cover running cost support for parks, while gradually reducing aid for people staying in the Carpathians and Polesia as other humanitarian NGOs stepped in and the number of people in need of support dropped.
The number of people arriving in the region has started to increase since the beginning of October as Russian attacks across Ukraine increased again. Now as winter fast approaches we expect that our support will again need to be scaled up in the coming months.
Our next priority is the urgently needed renovations of protected area infrastructure including several park administration buildings, ranger outposts, and housing which are rundown and deteriorating. As winter approaches this work is especially urgent for the parks that continue to host people. Repair work is also time-sensitive to fix leaking roofs and avoid further damage to building interiors and improve insulation and heating systems to allow the use of buildings during the fast-approaching winter. Furthermore, backup power systems and communications are now a priority as electricity infrastructure is targeted by Russian attacks across the country. FZS is already working on several renovations – contracting reputable construction companies in Ukraine. For now, these companies still have the capacity to take on new projects and building materials are still available on the market in Ukraine.