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On February 24, Russia launched an unprecedented military invasion of Ukraine. As of March 3, 2022, more than 1 million people have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries in Europe such as Poland, Hungary, and Moldova. According to the United Nations, between February 24 and March 1, it is estimated that 227 civilians had been killed and 525 were injured as a result of the invasion.
Almost immediately after getting the news, the world stood in solidarity with the Ukrainian people: European countries opened their doors to refugees, citizens launched fundraising campaigns for the Ukrainian military, and protesters stood up in major cities such as New York, Madrid, Milan, Moscow, and St. Petersburg .
The outpouring of neighborly charity and rapid response to the Ukrainian crisis should be rightfully praised, especially considering that back in 2016, multiple European countries closed their borders to refugees coming from Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq: according to the UN, 70% of the 1 million Syrian refugees are hosted only in two European countries: Germany (59%) and Sweden (11%).
When asked about the Ukrainian refugees, Bulgaria’s Prime Minister Kiril Petkov told journalists: “These are not the refugees we are used to: these people are Europeans... These people are intelligent. They are educated people.” Such rhetoric aside, what exactly makes Ukrainian refugees so different from Syrian, Afghani, or Iraqi refugees?
As stated by the Arab and Middle Eastern Journalists Association, war and conflict are seen as more normal and expected, and therefore somehow less tragic and urgent, when happening in the Middle East, Africa, South Asia, and Latin America versus in Europe or the West. We see this sentiment reflected in how media covers conflicts, how citizens around the world respond through protest or donations, and how eager countries and their citizenry are to take in the refugees the conflict has created.
It’s easy to forget that Ukraine’s war is now added onto the list of major ongoing conflicts, including the Syrian Civil War, the occupation of Palestine, the Afghanistan crisis , the Yemeni starvation crisis, the humanitarian crisis in Mozambique, the economic and hunger crisis in Venezuela, the conflict in Nigeria, the economic crisis in South Sudan, the internal displacement of people in Burkina Faso, and the conflict in Ethiopia.
"It’s easy to forget that Ukraine’s war is now added onto the list of major ongoing conflicts."
Humanitarian help and sympathy must be delivered equally to all innocent people in need of protection. No person is “more” human than others; hence no human is more deserving of help than others. We should stand against everything that threatens or violates people’s lives and human rights. So, what can you do to extend the same human empathy to all victims of humanitarian crises, no matter their country of origin?
Learn how to directly help on-the-ground organizations at How to Help Ukrainian Refugees.
Our first cohort is currently providing remote volunteers for students in Palestine, funding solar powered lights for grandmothers of AIDS orphans in Uganda, furnishing homes for resettled Afghan refugees in Colorado, and much more. We are currently in the process of launching partnerships with many of the organizations outlined in the article above.
Let us know if there is another ongoing crisis around the world we should take action for. As wars can last for months to years, humanitarian crises can be long lasting too. Your help and support towards a specific humanitarian crisis are of big help, but if you have the opportunity to continue helping after years, you will make an even greater impact.