Project “Improving food security and access to basic needs in conflict-affected areas of Eastern Ukraine near the line of demarcation”

At present, the NGO “Country of Free People” is implementing the project “Improving food security and access to basic needs in conflict-affected areas of Eastern Ukraine near the line of demarcation” as part of the financing of the “Pope for Ukraine” Initiative.

This is the second project of such kind that is financing under the Initiative.

Its purpose is to help people living at a distance of 10 - 12 kilometers from the line of demarcation. 5,350 vulnerable families will be provided assistance in purchase of food and non-food items. Specifically for the project, the IT company has adapted a bonus e-voucher system that allows convenient administrating of the process of buying and selling goods. The project covers such vulnerable target groups as large families, retirees, people with disabilities and others. For many of them, this assistance is extremely necessary in the current conditions of military conflict, economic crisis and general decline of the region. It should be noted that the system itself and the computer program of e-vouchers is quite simple, easy to use and requires a minimum of expenses from the owner of the local store in the frontline area and not much of an effort of the buyer.

In order to make a purchase, the buyer needs only a phone, where they receive SMS notifications about the accrual of vouchers with a certain amount of money on the account. Then the person visits the store, chooses any items he needs that are available in the store, or asks the seller to order certain items in the amount of his voucher in advance. Then a specially trained seller, who already has a computer with a special program at his workplace, uses a voucher to perform a purchase. And after that, the buyer receives a code on the phone that is used to confirm the purchase on a certain amount of money. The seller, in turn, with the help of a computer enters this combination of numbers into the system and thus the purchase is made. For the staff of the stores at the beginning of the project, special training was conducted, where they received all the necessary instructions on how to work in the system and interact with the buyer, who has the voucher, and the program itself, respectively.

Each of 5,350 families received an electronic voucher for the amount of UAH 1,470, which they can spend at a convenient number of purchases for 1.5 months on any food and non-food items, except alcohol and cigarettes.

Due to such a flexible and individualized approach, each customer who falls into the category of project implementation has the opportunity to choose the product he needs at this moment or to get in supplies. Also a huge advantage over previous humanitarian programs is the opportunity to purchase fresh and perishable foods (such as meat, fish, vegetables and fruits, dairy products, chocolate and other sweets). As noted by the beneficiaries of the project – the recipients of such vouchers – for them it is a chance to buy for themselves and their family those products that they could not afford before or bought extremely rarely - and thereby vary their menu with nutritious food, and also slightly indulge children with tasty sweets and pastries.

In addition to provisions, people have the opportunity to buy non-food items they have needed for so long. As examples, sellers and owners noted that electrical goods (kettles, sockets), household chemicals, accessories for children, blankets, pillows are in demand. This approach allows people in difficult life circumstances to improve their quality of life, compensate their basic needs for comfort, cleanliness, and to purchase repeat goods of prime necessity, such as diapers, baby food, personal care and home care products, and much more.

It should be noted that such a customer-oriented approach turns out to be equally beneficial and important for the local small business, which in these difficult times is going through some difficult stages. Thus, near the line of demarcation, during the military conflict, a large number of shops and trade outlets, which simply could not exist in the current economic situation, were closed. Damage of a large number of infrastructure facilities, decline in products demand, decrease in the number of people and a general impoverishment were a factor affecting the massive closure of trading floors and shops. This program through the introduction of this kind of voucher system and cooperation with local shops serves as support and even opens up new opportunities for development. According to the results of the past and the current project, some store owners said that due to the increase in profits, they were able to expand the range of goods, open new departments, and carry out minor repairs. Thus, one can see that assistance is provided not only to vulnerable categories, but the resources invested are directed to new favorable changes and improvements.

Another significant element of the project is the introduction of such a model of assistance, as “Work for Voucher”.

A lot of families that do not belong to any preferential category are on the verge of survival and in difficult economic conditions: the breadwinners have lost their jobs, their wives are on maternity leave, a middle-aged family with two schoolchildren, etc. The list can be continued. Such people will be given an opportunity to do a socially useful business and get paid for it with an e-voucher for the purchase of food and non-food items.

In total, it is planned to attract 380 beneficiaries, 60 of whom will, as their work, provide psychosocial assistance to lonely old people, with diseases, who to a greater extent do not go beyond the boundaries of their houses. This support will lie in helping a lonely elderly person around the house, buying food, cooking, going to the pharmacy, solving small feasible household issues. Basing on the practice and experience of the past project, the possibility of communication is also an important factor. And according to the results of monitoring, much of this social bonding lasts after the project. Having no financial motivation after participating in the program, the beneficiaries continue to communicate with their wards.

The remaining 320 participants of the “Work for Voucher” program will work with the aim of improving the settlement in which they live. In all cities and towns there are many facilities that require repair, restoration, cleaning, but local budget funds are insufficient to attract staff for this work. Thus, through participation in the program, project participants will be able to get an additional opportunity to earn money and contribute to the development of the surrounding space.

Each beneficiary of the “Work for Voucher” will participate in 2 rounds of works, for each of which he will receive 1 voucher in the amount of 1,440 UAH.

This project includes a complex approach to the rendering of humanitarian assistance and provides an opportunity to cover several sectors that form a single system of economic, social relations and interaction. Strategies that include not only standard assistance with products and goods, but also other goals that are the engine for regional development and support for many people in need are becoming effective and efficient.