Moldova is now one of the most populous countries in Europe after the Russian invasion. The country has seen 350,000 people arrive in its 2,621,000 inhabitants. This means that the country’s population has increased by 13% in three weeks.
Director General of Action Against Hunger (ACH), Olivier LonguePalanca warns about the trauma suffered by the refugees who cross the border into this small country. “We have been here 15 days and we have detected a Conditions of those who enter the country are at risk of significant deterioration.”, explains Longue. “Above all, women, the elderly and people with disabilities arrive. But the first ones who left the country had more resources, they came by car, they had more skills, they had foreign currency…”. Due to the fact that the Ukrainian banking system does not allow large amounts of money withdrawals, “at the moment the Ukrainian currency has no value outside of Ukraine”. They become more vulnerable.
Longué, who has led ACH since 1995, roughly describes the profile of the two groups of refugees in Moldova. Out of the over 300,000 refugees, approximately 150,000 are not willing to remain in their home country. Longue makes it clear: “Many Ukrainians fear that after UkraineMoldova will be next to be targeted. There is enormous concern about getting away from here.” This group of people has contacts in Europe, family and friends who live in other countries, adds the director general of Action Against Hunger, who speaks of Germany as one of the most sought after destinations among this group. The other half of the refugees who have arrived “concerns us a lot,” acknowledges Longué.
“10%, about 30,000 are not Ukrainians. Those who had their situation regularized have not had any problem going to other EU countries due to the free movement agreement” approved by Brussels, but not the group that did not have permanent residence. “There are another 120,000 people in extreme vulnerability, very poor families, elderly people without families or who have had to flee alone because their only son has stayed fighting on the front lines. Some fighters have taken their grandmother or mother to the border, and have then had to walk with great difficulty. You cannot tell these people that they are going to go to Spain or Germany, they stay there.”
On the arrival of unaccompanied minors, Longué adds that “we work with Moldovan social services to detect them.” “The general rule is mothers with small children, but it is true that there are parents who have to stay and do not want their teenage children to stay in Ukraine. We work with the social services of Moldova to detect them.”
Longué adds something fundamental in this war and that is the mental health of the refugees. “We have built a tent to accommodate people who are traumatized.” It is true that the humanitarian corridor to Moldova has not been officially recognized. “On Tuesday, on the Ukrainian side, they told me about their journey here and it breaks your heart One family told me that despite marking the car with drawings and ‘children inside’ signs, they were shot!” They arrive traumatized by the violence, also by leaving their father or family member behind, and lastly, by feeling weak.Longue admits it.The people who are now arriving have tried to hang on in the basements of their homes to stay in their country.. After five days of sleeping without rest, the artillery brought many of these days from Mikolaiv which was heavily impacted by the Russian Army and from there to Odessa. These are people who tried, but failed, to flee. This trauma will have to be worked on as well”.
Ukrainians are becoming more familiar with the experience of seeing someone die. Young people are often the ones who must go into battle unprepared.
Commenting to Longué that this will not be a short conflict, a war that has already lasted three weeks, the director of Action Against Hunger assures that this is the “finger in the sore spot”. “This isWhat is the most worrying thing about us?. Now there are resources, there is a wave of solidarity, it is true that it is less in Moldova than in other EU countries where we are deployed, because it is much more complex to get here”. According to the CEO, yesterday was a long day for border crossings because it was impossible for him to cross again. “Three weeks to a month from now, when perhaps the momentum of international and European solidarity in particular will diminish. We are already working on this perspective, when the spotlights are no longer here”.
In this sense, Longué speaks of “sustainable aid” during the coming months, not spending everything now and trying to do very good management, “so that nothing is lost.”