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IFAW worked with partners in Ukraine during the 2014 Crimea crisis, and we stood by those same shelters when Russia invaded in February 2022. Through our strong partnerships, we provided preemptive aid to animal shelters in Ukraine as they prepared for the invasion.
In addition, we rapidly expanded our emergency response efforts in Ukraine, Poland, Romania and Moldova. We supported zoos and sanctuaries with evacuating and transporting wildlife into safer areas. Our disaster response team deployed to Poland for two months to work at the busiest border crossing point with Ukraine, providing critical aid in the form of basic veterinary care, animal food and pet supplies. Until the end of June, we also had two IFAW-supported Ukrainian veterinarians assisting refugees and their pets entering Poland via the Przemyśl train station.
IFAW is implementing a multi-year project plan focused on our continued support of current and ongoing emergency needs, as well as recovery and rebuilding efforts. We continue to send food and supplies to relief workers and other organizations in Ukraine, and to grant emergency funds to support animals in need.
We have received enormous generosity during the Ukraine crisis and we’re so grateful for all of that incredible support. IFAW raised over USD $12M. This generosity allowed us to grant funds for emergency aid right at the start, deploy teams to the ground, provide critical resources to those who needed it most and now, also start preparing for the recovery and rebuilding phase. We are still receiving requests for aid daily.
The majority of funds earmarked for Ukraine are spent on our direct response activities, giving out grants and also on the recovery and rebuilding phase in coming years. Part of the funds raised are also going into our European Disaster Response Fund. This fund enables us to activate emergency aid right away on the European continent for both the short and long-term needs in Ukraine and the surrounding region. When emergencies arise, time is of the essence. We often don't have time to raise money to mobilize our emergency response—we need to act immediately, and this fund allows us to rush to rescue and aid animals in need.
Below is a summary of our topline Ukraine financials as per 31 December 2022:
All our financial information, including donations received, is publicly available in our annual report. In our latest financial statements from 2020/2021, you can see that we spent 76 cents of every dollar raised directly on our animal conservation programs and related administrative costs.
We are grateful to have received a tremendous amount of worldwide support and goodwill. IFAW has already disbursed nearly USD $6.3M to support animal rescue and relief efforts during this crisis. This includes the team’s deployment to Poland and the two IFAW-supported Ukrainian veterinarians, between March and June 2022. Over USD $1,5M of these funds are grants issued to support emergency needs for companion animals, wildlife and their owners impacted by the war.
New requests are added daily, but as of 31 December 2022, we have given a total of 81 grants—60 grants to partners inside Ukraine and another 21 grants to support work in surrounding countries—to aid animals from Ukraine.
Since February 2022, we are implementing a comprehensive, multi-year rescue and recovery plan in and around Ukraine. Our Ukraine Rescue project is shaped along two main initiatives:
Under the One Health principle, the health of human beings, animals and the environment are interlinked. By helping animals, we improve the mental health of their owners too as we reduce the stress and psychological impact of the chaos of a disaster and their concerns over their pets’ well-being.
From late March 2022 to mid-May 2022, IFAW-trained responders and veterinarians managed the only animal care tent at the Medyka border crossing between Poland and Ukraine. We distributed thousands of dollars’ worth of animal food, leashes, collars, pet carriers and clothing to refugees and their pets. Over the seven weeks that IFAW managed the tent, our team cared for 2,425 pets.
We are also partnered with the Chief Veterinary Office of Poland to support veterinary needs and provide pet supplies at the Przemyśl train station. Our veterinarians from Ukraine were funded by IFAW and supported the Polish veterinarians in examining, vaccinating and microchipping 3,355 pets.
Between March and May 2022, 43 IFAW responders, including seven veterinarians, deployed to greet and care for refugees and their pets as they entered Poland and began the next part of their journey. Our responders came from all over the world to help: Germany, France, the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Australia, the United States, Mexico and Costa Rica.
IFAW does not currently plan to open an office in Ukraine or surrounding countries. IFAW has country offices in Germany, the Netherlands, France and Belgium, and various staff members work on disaster response activities in the broader European region.
We are, however, working on a three-year plan that involves hiring project staff to specifically implement recovery and rebuilding activities in Ukraine, working closely with in-country strategic partners. The Ukraine Rescue project team now consists of 5 fulltime staff, four of whom are Ukrainians – two currently still living in Lviv and Kyiv and two others who had to flee the country in March and are residing in Belgium and the Netherlands.
Ten months into the war in Ukraine, IFAW directly helped 103,770 companion animals (most of whom were cats and dogs) and wild animals like bears, bats, lions and tigers. In addition to helping animals in crisis, we also supported the incredible families and caretakers of those animals.
IFAW mobilized over a hundred people to support this response. Rescuers and veterinarians on the ground worked 24/7 and for several months helping animals and refugees as they came across the border from Ukraine into Poland. Staff in our offices continue to answer the huge number of emails and questions we receive from around the world on a daily basis.
We continue to support animal rescue and relief efforts wherever possible. We also keep providing grants to help partners and other organizations who take care of animals in Ukraine and surrounding countries. When the time comes, IFAW will transition into the recovery phase of our crisis response. We have allocated funds to rebuild facilities and structures and contribute to habitat restoration in a way that benefits the well-being of many more animals—now and in the future.
IFAW is known for our frontline emergency response work and long-term recovery commitments.
When the war began, the recovery phase was outlined alongside our emergency response phase. We plan to address the welfare needs of companion animals and wildlife (both captive and native) with four key priorities.
1. Protect wildlife and native habitats
2. Develop infrastructure for animals in crisis
3. Promote healthy people and animals
4) Plan for animals in crisis
IFAW’s response is a multi-year commitment on our part and we will continue to provide critical aid—veterinary care, animal food, emergency funds, pet supplies—where it is needed most. Our current plan for the recovery phase focuses on improving animal welfare standards and practices, as well as building back more resilient facilities, systems and wildlife habitats.
We build strategic and strong networks across Europe be able to immediately address crisis needs in the region. IFAW’s advocacy and policy work in Europe focuses on Response, Risk Reduction and Preparedness. We promote the inclusion of animals in national and regional disaster preparedness and response plans. We are advocating for animals to be included in European governments’ national disaster plans.
For example, in the Netherlands, IFAW was key in setting up a joint national NGO support structure, officially recognized by the government, for refugees who fled Ukraine with their animals and entered the country. We were also successful in getting commitment from the Dutch government to add animals in their disaster plans. In addition, we ran a pilot project with city councils to incorporate the evacuation and sheltering of animals in their disaster preparedness and response plans.
We believe that collaboration with partners magnifies our impact, particularly during times of crisis.
Careful coordination allows us to avoid any duplication of effort and ensures all resources are deployed efficiently. While working on the Ukraine crisis, we have partnered with many organizations, including, but not limited to: EAZA (European Association of Zoos and Aquaria), EARS, Four Paws, HSI (Humane Society International), Dogs Trust International, WSAVA/USAVA, FVE (Federation of Veterinarians of Europe), ICAM, Greater Good Charities, World Central Kitchen, Vets Without Borders, and the veterinary authorities of Romania and Moldova.
Going forward, we will continue to incorporate strategic partners, including government agencies, to strengthen sustainable interventions and recovery in the region.
We remain transparent about the costs and risks of directing donor funds and managing a major rescue effort. The administrative fees reflect this financial reality and our commitment to direct funds to where they are needed most, along with the costs of managing such an effort.
Where we have determined that we cannot reasonably direct immediate funds to the Ukraine disaster response, we will direct funds to the European Disaster Response Fund and the IFAW Global Rescue Fund to allow us to address long-term rescue needs in the region and beyond, consistent with the IFAW rescue mission.
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