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Giving clothes and food is not the best way to support Ukrainian refugees

When you see the images and videos coming out of Ukraine, it’s hard not to want to help as hundreds of thousands of refugees, mostly women and children, flee for their lives. But charity professionals know very well that in many cases, good deeds often lead to bad results.

The 2010 earthquake in Haiti is a striking example. Aid poured in from around the world and created an infrastructure bottleneck that seriously hampered – rather than helped relieve – efforts, costing countless lives.

Yet, sadly, the worst was yet to come. A cholera outbreak, which was likely introduced by United Nations peacekeepers, killed thousands more Haitian earthquake survivors, at the rate of up to 50 people a day. We must not make the same mistake with the Ukrainian refugee crisis.

Many professional responders now adhere to the doctrine of effective altruism. It is an international movement that seeks to make aid and humanitarian assistance more effective, both in terms of what is delivered and the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance who are reached.

Refugee Support Europe has embraced this initiative and, over many years of working as a charity specializing in supporting refugees, has developed the knowledge, infrastructure and skills to provide the humanitarian assistance required for refugees. .

The Independent has launched a petition calling on the UK government to be at the forefront of the international community in offering help and support to those in Ukraine. To sign the petition Click here

Today, our expertise is needed more than ever as Europe faces an unprecedented exodus of millions of people. The UN refugee agency says more than a million people have fled Ukraine since the war began, and millions more are on the move. We are first sending a team of our most experienced staff to Romania and Moldova, two countries that have not yet received the same level of humanitarian aid as Ukraine’s other neighbours, such as Poland.

So where does this leave us as a humanitarian organization and, more specifically, how can we work with people who want to help but don’t know how to do the right thing? Although I mean incredibly well, I would advise people to avoid donating second-hand food and clothing. TV reports showing communities gathering in village halls and school gymnasiums to sort through food boxes and blankets may give us all a warm and fuzzy feeling inside, but when it comes to actually organize this aid, the reality can be very different. .

Too often these items may not be what is actually needed. Moreover, they are expensive to transport overseas and they absorb too many human hours of effort to sort and pack them. With that in mind, it is far better to donate to a trusted organization on the ground. This allows charities to buy what they need locally and in doing so support local economies, which are often heavily impacted by the need to host large influxes of refugees.

The Independent also raises funds for the people of Ukraine – if you would like to donate, please Click here for our GoFundMe page

It also helps charities be nimble so they can respond to specific needs as they arise, whether it’s the right food, clothing, toiletries, medicine or other essentials of life. In other words, financial donations allow us to provide what is really needed, but, just as crucially, when It’s necessary. Shipments of items from countries hundreds of miles away rarely contain what is needed.

We know this approach works. We have been applying it for more than seven years in refugee camps in Greece housing refugees fleeing the war in Syria, as well as in Bangladesh and Mexico. We have also launched our Aid With Dignity approach which recognizes that being a refugee robs you of all human dignity, and therefore the way we operate and treat people is driven by trying to restore that sense of self-worth. and mutual respect as much as possible.

That’s why we support The Independentof the Refugees Welcome campaign, because we attach great importance to the safety and dignity of refugees.

When it comes to doing the right thing in a humanitarian crisis, good intentions are one thing, but getting good results is another. Sometimes how you help is just as important as the help itself.

Paul Hutchings is co-founder and CEO of Refugee Support Europe

The Independent has a proud history of campaigning for the rights of the most vulnerable, and we launched our first campaign to welcome refugees during the war in Syria in 2015. Today, as we renew our campaign and launch this petition to Following the unfolding crisis in Ukraine, we are asking the government to go further and faster to ensure the delivery of aid. To learn more about our Welcome to Refugees campaign, Click here