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They defend, provide legal consultations, deliver humanitarian aid: lawyers and activists from Mykolaiv help residents of the front-line city and region

Publication date: August 19, 2022

Author: Olena Orlova / Legal Development Network

The non-governmental organization “Time to gather Ukrainians” together with a team of partners delivered and distributed humanitarian aid to more than 7 thousand residents of the front-line Mykolaiv Oblast. The process required careful planning, clear organization, and special conditions – it was impossible to expose people to danger during shelling. Lawyer Vadym Zhepalo told the Legal Development Network about the humanitarian mission, which lasted for two months, and how the organization lives during the war.

Photo: Vadym Zhepalo, a lawyer of Mykolaiv NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.
Photo: Vitalii Okhrymenko, a head of Mykolaiv NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.

But even during the service, lawyers, whenever possible, accept appeals from compatriots online and provide legal assistance. Thanks to friendly relations with other public organizations, they try to help people in all acute issues, which the residents of the region, which lives under constant shelling, have a lot of. In particular, these are humanitarian problems, which the organization dealt with during June-July 2022.

When talking about this humanitarian mission, it is worth understanding the conditions in which the people of Mykolaiv live and work. According to Oleksiy Danilov, Secretary of the NSDC (The National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine), Mykolaiv is in third place in the list of Ukrainian cities that have suffered the largest number of missile attacks by enemy russia during several months of full-scale war.
The Mykolaiv oblast is actually near the front. Active hostilities are taking place on its territory, and the town of Snigurivka and several dozen villages near it are occupied by russian troops. The enemy is shelling both Mykolaiv itself and the populated areas of the oblast with various types of weapons and is not giving up its plans to try to capture the oblast center again.

Since the beginning of the war, almost half of its 500,000 residents left Mykolaiv. About 70,000 people remain in the oblast and have received the status of internally displaced persons.

The oblast center has been without normal water supply for three months, gas, water, and electricity supply lines have been systematically damaged.

Mykolayiv. Consequences of shelling on the night of August 2, 2022. Photo: Suspilne media Mykolaiv.
  • Under such conditions, at the beginning of June, during a working meeting and communication with the management of the NGO “Public Health and Positive Actions “Time of Life”, which represents one of the largest patient organizations of Ukraine “100% Life” in Mykolaiv оblast, we found out that with the financial support of the World Food Program of the United Nations (World Food Program), a large-scale delivery of a significant number of food kits to the region is planned»,  – says Vadym Zhepalo.

The kits contain products that can last one person for about a month: cereals, canned food, oil, etc. International humanitarian aid was intended for civilians who are in a difficult financial situation and have suffered from the war. First of all, these are people vulnerable to HIV and tuberculosis and their close environment, medical workers, elderly people, people with disabilities, people with a low-income level, internally displaced persons, orphans, and children with disabilities.

After discussing the situation, the partner organizations decided to jointly organize the processes of distribution, delivery, and transfer of aid to people.

  • We involved several partner organizations in the implementation of the mission, particular, such as “Second Breath”, “Volunteers from the People”, “Medical Control”, “Center for Development of the Housing Fund”, “Smile of a Child”, “All-Ukrainian Association of People with Drug Addiction “Volna” (“Wave”), “Center for the Development of Local Democracy “Voice of the Community”, “Penitentiary Initiative”, charity fund “Unitus”. Communication was established with heads of local self-government bodies and associations of co-owners of residential buildings. Our public union the Legal Development Network also contributed to the financing of the costs of delivery of grocery kits,  – clarifies the lawyer.

By joining forces, activists and volunteers quickly found warehouses and vehicles; created a team that was engaged in cargo work; appealed to the local media with a request to convey information about the possibility of receiving help to people as widely as possible. Separately, they developed a mechanism for issuing food kits: it was important to do it in such a way as to avoid a significant and long-term crowding of people in places of possible shelling.

International humanitarian aid for residents of Mykolaiv oblast. Photo: NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.
The whole community helped with the delivery, unloading, and issuing of the kits. Photo: NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.

As a result of such concerted actions, the Mykolaiv oblast received 120,000 kg of food. It was distributed to more than 7,000 residents of the front-line settlements of Shevchenkove, Berezneguvate, Bashtanka, and Novy Bug territorial communities, the cities of Mykolaiv and Voznesensk, Yelanets, and Nova Odesa communities.

Humanitarian aid arrived in Novy Bug. Photo: NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.
Food packages were also received in Bashtanka. Photo: NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.
Humanitarian mission in the village of Berezneguvate. Photo: NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.
  • Representatives of the organizations not only handed over food kits to people and also conducted legal awareness campaigns: they explained the rights of internally displaced persons, people with disabilities, children, and other categories,  – says Vadym Zhepalo.

He adds that now his organization is expanding its activities. There are representatives of the NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians” in almost every territorial community. Now it’s about resources and practical projects that will help support people in these extremely difficult times. The organization has already submitted an application for participation in the competition under the project “Capacity development of local NGOs – legal aid providers in Ukraine”. This project is aimed at developing the potential of local civil society organizations whose activities are focused on providing legal assistance to the population, in particular on meeting the legal needs of internally displaced persons.

Mykolaiv volunteers and activists.Photo: NGO “Time to gather Ukrainians”.

P. S. More relevant information on legal and humanitarian issues – is in the special section #StandWithUkraine. It accumulates materials that may be useful to those who suffer, whose rights are violated as a result of the war between russia and Ukraine.

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