Since the beginning of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, a wide range of responders, both established organisations and first-time relief providers, have emerged to address the growing needs. At the national level, the Government of Ukraine (GoU) is attempting to centralise the reception and coordination of aid. At the oblast and local levels, the GoU, Oblast Military Administrations (OMAs), and hromadas (municipalities), alongside national and local NGOs and the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, have been distributing and providing aid to the affected population. With the networks and connections they have previously built, especially with public administrations, national NGOs present prior to the 2022 invasion may have considerable capacity to engage in the response. Insecurity has disrupted the activities of some of those NGOs, however, and led their staff to evacuate, particularly in the conflict-affected areas.
At the same time, civil society organisations (CSOs), faith-based networks, and a considerable amount of newly emerged volunteers and volunteer networks are providing vital humanitarian response, particularly at the local level. While their capacity may be limited, they are more agile in their ability to reach the affected population even in the most hazardous areas and may have a better understanding of local needs. Civil society sees their contributions to the humanitarian response as a way of participating in the national effort.
The international response, consisting of UN agencies and INGOs, considerably scaled up its presence since February, but a strong national response with its own coordination, processing, and delivery procedures characterises the environment it operates in. Population displacement, conflict dynamics, and differing local implementations of national directives mean that international organisations juggle supporting government entities, operating with established humanitarian responders, and establishing new relationships with more fluid ad hoc networks.
The multitude of different responders involved at the local level, both new and established, has led to a number of issues, including parallel structures and a lack of respective understanding of how different levels of response are working to address needs. The ways in which the response operates (in terms of the coordination and delivery of assistance) considerably vary by oblast and even hromada. It has been impossible to quantify the impact and reach of the response of local formal and informal organisations, networks, and volunteers.
These challenges make it difficult for local and international responders to effectively work together and create cohesion between the different levels of response. Regardless of the challenges, the GoU, NGOs, the international humanitarian system, and informal structures all play an important role in the response, demonstrating a need to enhance relationships, collaboration, and information-sharing between local and international levels of response.