Scots have raised close to £40m in humanitarian aid for Ukraine, as the war with Russia enters its third year.

On the morning of February 24, 2022, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced what he dubbed a 'special military operation' to demilitarise the neighbouring country, sparking an aerial and ground assault.

By September more than seven million people had fled the country, with a humanitarian crisis developing both within Ukraine and for refugees.

The Disasters Emergency Committee launched the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal in response to the conflict, and two years on has raised £38m to allow its member charities and local partners to reach 6.9m people.

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DEC charities have provided food, clean water, shelter support, cash payments, healthcare, mental health support, winter and hygiene items and much more. As well as delivering aid directly, they have worked with a network of local organisations, helping them scale up their response. 

The majority of aid spending (58%) has been focused inside Ukraine, with funds also being spent to help refugees in Poland, Romania, Moldova and Hungary. 

The Herald: Refugees cross over the railway tracks at the KROŚCIENKO border crossing point on the Poland/Ukraine borderRefugees cross over the railway tracks at the KROŚCIENKO border crossing point on the Poland/Ukraine border (Image: Toby Madden/DEC)

The Edinburgh Chairman of the Ukrainian Association of Great Britain, Hannah Beaton-Hawryluk says: “The support for Ukraine from communities across Scotland has been incredible over the last two years.

"The £38 million raised in Scotland for the DEC Ukraine appeal will go far to supporting DEC partner charities to help some of the most devastated communities across Ukraine as they are impacted by Russia’s invasion."

Saleh Saeed, Chief Executive of the DEC, said: “Last year I visited Ukraine to meet some of the people being helped with the money that has been so generously donated by the British public. I met people like Polina, a mum of three from Kharkiv, who had fled the fighting while pregnant.

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“To see that she was safe, with a place to stay, food and other items the family needed, thanks to donations from across the UK, was really heartwarming. And to know that she is just one among millions of people that our member charities have been able to reach through this appeal is just incredible.” 

After two years the conflict appears to have developed into a war of attrition, with Russian forces controlling much of the Donbas region but making limited gains, while a Ukrainian counter-offensive in the summer of 2023 proved ineffective.

Last week Ukrainian forces withdrew from the city of Avdiivka in the wake of a Russian onslaught, but said the city had largely been destroyed with an estimated 1,000 residents remaining mostly below ground.

The Herald: Father Vitaliy of Depaul Ukraine stands in front of a destroyed apartment block in KharkivFather Vitaliy of Depaul Ukraine stands in front of a destroyed apartment block in Kharkiv (Image: Maciek Musialek/DEC)

Speaking about Scotland's contribution, Father Vitaliy Novak, CEO of Depaul Ukraine, a local partner of DEC member charity CAFOD, said: "You made our lives better.

"Because you help us and believe in us we continue to fight. I think in Scotland you know better what freedom is. I remember about Scotland only this film: 'freeeedom!'. Braveheart, you know?

"I remember when the war started I was shouting this many times.

"We thank God we are still here after two years of conflict and that our staff and volunteers are alive. What I see here is that the scale of the conflict in some ways, especially in Kharkiv and Odesa is even worse than at the beginning. 

"As an organisation we have learned a lot through these two years and met a lot of suffering people. We are still here because without us and without what we do it will be worse for many of our people. 

"We will not leave the people who we serve. This is our motivation; to continue with the humanitarian aid and to continue to help people as much as possible. The DEC's support, not only financial but the sharing of knowledge and sharing of experience, has been vital for us."  

Minister for Culture, Europe and International Development Kaukab Stewart said: "The Scottish Government has been proud to support the DEC's appeal with £2 million, as part of our overall £5.3 million package of humanitarian aid for the people of Ukraine. We continue to stand with them and all those who have been displaced, including those who have come to Scotland, in solidarity against Russia's illegal invasion.

"This funding has gone to a variety of charities working on the ground to provide shelter, heating, clean water, and medical supplies, among other basic humanitarian needs interventions and I'm grateful for everyone working in such difficult and dangerous circumstances for all they do to bring hope to people in need."