A New Zealand aid worker in Kyiv says the ReliefAid group he leads was one of the first to provide food in the suburb of Bucha — northwest of Kyiv — where Russian troops are alleged to have executed 150 civilians.
New Zealand donations in the Ukraine War have so far helped the aid group deliver more than six tonnes of food to survivors, and take medical supplies to hospitals around Kyiv.
ReliefAid executive director Mike Seawright arrived in Kyiv this weekend after driving in from the western side of Ukraine — “down some roads that have seen a lot of intense fighting, burnt out buildings, warehouses completely flattened, family homes destroyed and lots of military hardware burnt out.
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“It was an interesting if not somewhat chilling drive.”
He has been in the country for a month after crossing the border on foot.
In Kyiv, “the fighting may have stopped … but the destruction of family homes is still there. People are living in the rubble of what was their normal lives with nothing to their name, faced with cold, harsh conditions, with little or no food. So humanitarian support such as we are providing … is essential.”
But while fighting there may have stopped, missiles were still “raining down” on the city, making it unsafe.
Management on the fly
Seawright said that with many trucks bringing aid into the country — and at least one plane of medical supplies — a lot of organisation was involved.
“It also takes a lot of management on the fly. So we’ve predefined plans … but of course what happens on the day is entirely dependent on checkpoints we can’t control, road conditions on roads that have been severely damaged … and a security situation that is extremely volatile. So this is our number eight wire – managing all of this.”
His team also wants to deliver aid to people in the besieged city of Mariupol.
“We are standing by to get in there as soon as conditions allow. We pride ourselves on being at the forefront of humanitarian action. ReliefAid is a warzone specialist humanitarian aid organisation but I have to say, even we can’t get access to Mariupol at the moment.”
As soon as an access corridor was established, they would be in, Seawright said.
Being on the ground was key to working effectively, he said.
A lot of hard work
“It takes a lot of hard working, a lot of networking, a lot of managing logistics, but I’m proud to say we’ve got an incredible team here in Ukraine allowing us to do that.
“The most important thing you need to do when engaging with a new environment is see what is happening on the ground. We’ve got to know who we are supporting. We have got to make sure we know what their needs are and therefore we need to make sure the support that we receive by generous kiwis in New Zealand and across the world is going to the right place.
“You can’t do this from a desk in New Zealand, you can’t do this by reading a report. You have to get on the ground and see it yourself.”
This article is republished under a community partnership agreement with RNZ.