The Russian invasion of Ukraine shows no sign of letting up, but the UN continues to bring humanitarian supplies to the country, including solar lamps, which bring some respite from the darkness of windowless basement shelters, in regions where electricity infrastructure has been destroyed or damaged by shelling.
In a dark, overcrowded cellar in Kharkiv, Ukraine, 40-year-old Natalia is hiding from almost constant air raids nearby. Together with her son, niece, uncle and mother, she lives in one of the most dangerous areas of the city. Sleeping on a cold floor alongside dozens of others, sometimes she does not see the sky for several days.
The second largest city in Ukraine, Kharkiv remains under attack by the Russian Federation. As the death and injury toll in this region increases daily, assistance from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) is being delivered to help those living in shelters that were not initially designed to accommodate people.
Beyond the necessities like food and medicine, they are desperate for news from their families. Solar lamps provided by IOM are helping displaced Ukrainians charge their mobile phones, enabling them to hear their loved ones’ voices once again.
In Chernihiv, the country’s northernmost regional capital, 70 per cent of the city lacked electricity due to infrastructure damage caused by heavy shelling from late February to early April.
“It was very scary to live in the darkness, but the worst thing was the lack of communication with relatives. People turned on their phones just for a while and rationed the charge as their treasure,” explains Olga, a staffer of the IOM partner NGO ‘Ukrainian Prism’ that has been delivering the solar lamps and other aid to the most affected areas.
“We transported the first batch of solar lamps from IOM in rubber boats across the frosty Desna River, along with the most important cargo for the residents of Chernihiv, when the city was still besieged,” recalls Olga. IOM’s local partner, the charitable foundation ‘Source of Revival’ is doing everything possible to help people who remain in Kharkiv as well as those staying in hard-to-reach cities and villages of the region.
Solar lamps have become one of the most sought-after items. “The lamps are a real help for us – we can charge phones and use them for lighting,” says Kateryna, a mother of two.
IOM and its growing network of implementing partners have been delivering the lamps and other core-relief aid to some of the most vulnerable and affected. Since February 24, it has delivered more than 71,000 solar lamps to affected communities in 10 regions of Ukraine.