TORONTO – Canadians donated $52 million for aid efforts in Ukraine last year and their continued support is needed, Ukrainian Canadian organizations said Wednesday as the conflict neared its one-year mark.
Victor Hetmanczuk, the chair of the Ukraine Humanitarian Relief Committee, said the funds raised came from 72,000 donors in Canada.
“This is a number that we never thought we would ever achieve,” he said at a press conference held to mark the upcoming first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
Hetmanczuk said $26 million of the funds raised has so far gone to providing food, medical assistance and power supplies such as generators to those affected by the war. The remaining funds will go to further humanitarian efforts, he said.
“It is not going to stop for an awful long time,” he said of the war. “It is going to take a long time until we finally get to the goal that we want to see, which is a free and independent Ukraine.”
Yulia Kovaliv, Ukraine’s ambassador to Ottawa, called the situation in her country a “humanitarian catastrophe.”
Millions have been forced from their homes, 60 per cent of public infrastructure has been destroyed and around 30 per cent of the country’s territory is now contaminated with landmines, she said via Zoom at Tuesday’s press conference.
Canadian donations are saving lives, she said.
“Each of that donation, each bunch of support, whether it was food, clothes or de-mining equipment â€¦ saving lives of many Ukrainians who are still living in Ukraine in a very tough and dire circumstances,” she said.
“All of (what) you’re doing is actually something that makes a big difference for millions of Ukrainians who are now living through very hard times.”
Ukrainians will need medical and mental health support in the years to come as many of them are dealing with life-altering physical and mental injuries, she added.
“The stress and the mental trauma for all of the Ukrainian nation is deep,” she said.
Alexandra Chyczij, president of the Ukrainian Canadian Congress, said her organization and those she works with are grateful for the donations from Canadians and that support is still needed.
Chyczij said she was among a group of Ukrainians who took part in a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau a year ago to discuss the latest developments in Ukraine right before the war had started.
“A few minutes after our meeting ended, our phones lit up,” she said. “The bombing had started in Kyiv.”
The funds raised have gone to support those affected by the war in Ukraine as well as those who have fled the conflict and come to Canada, she said.
Rahul Singh, executive director of aid group Global Medic, said 18 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and 16 million have been displaced in the country since the war began.
“That is an incredibly high number,” he said. “This is a nightmare, this war is very ugly and it hurts the most vulnerable.”