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Japanese aid groups struggling to provide support to Ukrainians

Courtesy of Peace Winds Japan
Miho Fukui, right, checks aid supplies for Ukrainians near the Polish border on March 2.

Japanese nonprofit organizations and other aid groups are struggling to get support to Ukraine, where Russia continues its military onslaught.

Unlike the regional conflicts they have experienced in the past, they are unable to enter Ukraine due to fierce fighting in various parts of the country, or to obtain information on which supplies are needed.

“Because this is a conflict between countries, the extent of the damage is huge,” said Miho Fukui, 48, who works for Peace Winds Japan (PWJ). “Although sufficient support must be necessary, we are finding it difficult to get a grasp on the situation.”

The Hiroshima Prefecture-based NPO carries out aid work mainly in conflict areas.

Fukui entered Poland, which borders Ukraine, on Feb. 26, two days after Russia’s invasion. She has engaged in aid work in South Sudan and the Balkans following regional conflicts, distributing food and clothing to local residents and helping them dig wells.

This time, however, the entirety of Ukraine has become a target of Russia’s military, leaving her no choice but to forgo entering the country.

Because there were no Polish aid groups that she could contact, Fukui went to the Ukrainian border area to talk to civilians fleeing Ukraine. She also spoke to a Ukrainian nongovernmental organization online and learned that there was a shortage of medicines such as painkillers and fever treatments. However, it was difficult to send the actual drugs from Poland, so PWJ decided to send funds instead.

Fukui returned to Japan on Monday. In Poland, there were many aid groups as well as a system to provide a certain level of support to fleeing Ukrainians, so PWJ is considering providing aid via other neighboring countries. Two staff members entered Moldova on Tuesday to find a route to deliver medical supplies.

“We’ll proceed with our preparations so that we can provide sufficient support as soon as we enter Ukraine,” said a PWJ staff member.

A Tokyo-based NGO called the Association for Aid and Relief, Japan also dispatched two staff members to Moldova on Friday. They will start by asking fleeing Ukrainians what they need.