A dramatic humanitarian situation
The Russian war of aggression against Ukraine has brought immeasurable suffering to millions of people. The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is growing ever worse. The UN Refugee Agency expects that up to 4 million may flee to neighbouring countries and that up to 8 million more may be forced by the Russian attacks to flee their homes and seek refuge in central Ukraine, where they will be needing emergency assistance. For the German Government, providing aid to civilians affected by the fighting is an absolute priority.
Since the outbreak of the war, to swiftly get medical supplies, food, cash payments, psychosocial support and secure housing to Ukrainians, Germany has made an additional contribution of more than 40 million euro to its humanitarian assistance fund for Ukraine and the region. The funds will go to international organisations such as the World Food Programme of the United Nations, the Red Cross and NGOs. The German Government is supporting those who have been displaced by setting up reception centres and emergency accommodation facilities in neighbouring countries, by providing psychosocial support and medical care, and by distributing relief goods.
The German Government provides humanitarian assistance solely on the basis of the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independence. This aid is directed towards all those who are in humanitarian distress. The aim is to save lives and alleviate suffering.
On 7 March 2022, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development announced an emergency aid programme to the tune of 38.5 million euro. An initial aid package of 4.5 million euro supports disaster management authorities, in particular by providing fire brigades with protective clothing and breathing apparatuses. The Federal Agency for Technical Relief (THW) has already been deployed on behalf of the German Government and is delivering first aid kits, generators and other items to where they are needed.
Help in the context of the United Nations
With contributions totalling 175 million euro since 2014, Germany was already one of Ukraine’s largest humanitarian donors. Moreover, Germany is the largest contributor to the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund of the United Nations.
The United Nations has an established logistical system through which it can provide aid. The World Food Programme, for example, distributes food to people in Ukrainian cities and in neighbouring countries. The United Nations supports refugees who are on the move and works to afford safe passage to civilians so that they can leave war-torn regions.
The United Nations has made available an additional 20 million euro for life-saving humanitarian assistance and measures to protect the civilian population from its Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF), through which it can respond to crises anywhere in the world. Germany was the largest donor to this fund last year, having contributed 130 million euro.
Close coordination within the European Union
Germany is also engaged at the level of the European Union. The European Commission is the coordinating authority of the EU Civil Protection Mechanism. The purpose of this instrument is to facilitate mutual support among EU member states and vis-à-vis third countries. In the event of a disaster or emergency, the mechanism can be used to make requests for assistance that are then passed on to EU member states’ civil protection and disaster management authorities. This aid is currently being delivered to people in Ukraine and to refugees. The German Federal Foreign Office and a number of other Federal Ministries, the Federal Police and various Länder have provided medical products, first-aid kits, generators, tents, camp beds and other protective items via this mechanism.
Tremendous willingness to help
Many people in Germany have great sympathy for the fate of people in Ukraine, and the tremendous willingness to help extends to civil society. The large number of donated items has resulted in aid organisations needing to do a significant amount of coordination work. The German Government therefore supports the appeal to refrain from donations in kind and whenever possible to donate money to established aid organisations instead. Donations can be made via Aktion Deutschland Hilft and the Disaster Relief Alliance. By adding the memo “Nothilfe Ukraine” (emergency aid for Ukraine) to bank transfers, the money will be spent on relief measures for people in Ukraine.
Cities and municipalities can provide information on what refugees need in their temporary shelters and how one can take people in who have fled the fighting.
Delivering weapons and military materiel
Responding to the invasion by Russian troops and Russia’s violation of international law, Foreign Minister Baerbock said the following in her address to the German Bundestag (27 February):
It is a war that necessitates the revision of the pillars of our foreign policy. Speaking in this chamber about the supply of arms just a few weeks ago, I said that a 180 degree turn in foreign policy was something that needed to be done at the right time and in full awareness. Sadly, this time has come.
Besides important aid supplies, Germany will provide Ukraine with 1000 anti‑tank weapons and 500 surface‑to‑air missiles for the country’s defence; in addition, it will deliver to Ukraine urgently needed fuel and 14 armoured vehicles.
An unprecedented package of sanctions, including SWIFT
What is more, the response by Germany and its European partners includes a massive and unprecedented package of sanctions: cutting Russia off from international financial markets, an export ban for the oil industry, severe measures targeting Russia’s aviation sector, denying the country access to high technology, and sanctions targeting Russia’s President Putin, Foreign Minister Lavrov and the network of oligarchs that supports them. Further measures have already been agreed, including the targeted and effective limitation of access to the SWIFT international payments system and measures directed at Russia’s central bank.
Documenting war crimes
Moreover, Germany will make a particular effort to support the human rights defenders and activists of Ukraine. By, among other things, continuing to pay their salaries, Germany will help to ensure that these individuals can carry on with their work for a free Ukraine – even if they are living outside the country. This particularly includes the documentation of war crimes and violence targeting the civilian population. Such acts must be recorded and publicised, also so that the perpetrators can be brought to justice.