Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

FCA granted 400,000 euros to assist East Africa suffering from a food shortage — Up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia

The worst drought in four decades along with inflation and problems with the availability of imported cereals (accelerated by the war in Ukraine) are causing the food shortage in the Horn of Africa. Within a short time, the price of a grocery shopping basket has risen by 36% in Somalia.

EAST AFRICA has been hit by the worst drought in four decades. The extreme weather caused by climate change has impacted Somalia, the eastern parts of Ethiopia and northern Kenya in particular. These regions have not seen normal seasonal rain for almost two years.

According to the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), up to a quarter (approximately 4.1 million) of the Somali population need urgent humanitarian food aid. By some NGO estimates, this figure is over six million people. In Kenya, more than two million people need food aid. According to estimates by experts, up to 600,000 children under the age of five are suffering from acute malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia. As the drought continues, the humanitarian disaster is expected to grow and spread.

somalinaiset istuvat maassa. Taustalla näkyy teltta.
PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Drought is not the only factor affecting the food shortage in Somalia and Kenya; rather, what is at stake is a multiple crisis which has been exacerbated by the Russian invasion of Ukraine as well. As much as 90 per cent of the cereals consumed in Somalia are imported from Ukraine and Russia. Since February, the price of wheat has risen in Somalia by as much as 300 per cent.

In April, Finn Church Aid (FCA) granted 400,000 euros for a humanitarian relief operation in Kenya and Somalia. Now we have started our operation.

Food prices sky-rocketed after the war broke out in Ukraine

Ikali Karvinen is the country Director of FCA Somalia. He has been following very closely the dramatic impact of inflation on the price of food and the effects of drought on the food crisis.

“Because of inflation, the price of food has gone up by 30 per cent,” he says. “The same goes for the price of fuel.”

The price of essential foods like cooking oil, maize, millet, sesame seeds, peas and beans has even doubled in places. Approximately 70 per cent of the Somali population lives below the poverty line, meaning people live on less than two euros a day. As the value of money falls due to inflation, the little money will buy even less of anything: for example, food. Indeed, inflation combined with drought has been estimated to impact the lives of up to six million people in Somalia.

“While the climate crisis is greatly impacting especially East Africa, this particular spring the war in Ukraine is impacting food and energy inflation possibly the most,” says Director Karvinen. “So, here we now have two major crises overlapping each other.”

Somalinainen pitää sylissään vauvaa. Kuvassa myös toinen lapsi.
Food crisis is affecting more than a quarter of Somalia’s population. The children under the age of five are among those most affected. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

He continues by saying the nomadic shepherd population in Somalia is currently in a very dire situation. The drought is killing the cattle and along with their cattle, families are losing their livelihoods. The threat for Somalia is that a situation like the 2011 famine will repeat itself.

In response to this humanitarian crisis, FCA began distributing cash aid. This is a fast and humane way of helping which saves on the cost of logistics.

“Cash aid works as long as there are markets, be they shops or marketplaces, where people can buy food and other basic supplies and where money has some value,” Director Karvinen explains.

Great part of Somali people depend on their animals and agriculture. They are in a very vulnerable position in the times of drought. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

The falling value of money can become a problem for cash aid distributions, however.

“If inflation continues to rise at this rate, we will face some serious questions,” Director Karvinen continues. “Will it make sense to continue with cash aid or will we be forced to start distributing food at some point?”

Lapsi katsoo äitinsä sylistä Somaliassa. Lapsen ympärillä on äidin vaatetta.
In Somalia, food and cash distributions have been hindered by the security situation. PHOTO: Mohamed Abdihakim/FCA

Food distributions demand logistics

Food distribution demands logistics. In Somalia, the process can be hindered by the security situation which is currently extremely bad according to Director Karvinen. Meanwhile, the coronavirus is also continuing to spread in East Africa.

By mid-summer, the humanitarian operation of FCA will seek to distribute cash aid to the areas most affected by the food shortage; this will include 700 Somali and 600 Kenyan households. The operation aims to reach especially those families who have had to leave their homes due to the disaster and those most threatened by malnutrition. Households that rely on widowed women or children for their subsistence are at the very heart of FCA relief work.

Contact information:

Ikali Karvinen, Country Director for Somalia, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050, tel. +252 617 234 597.

Ukraine war – How ordinary people became refugees

When the terror began, they fled – Finn Church Aid followed the first weeks of Ukraine’s war and how ordinary people became refugees

In spring 2022, first thousands, then hundreds of thousands, and eventually millions of Ukrainians crossed the border to neighbouring countries in search of safety. Even more Ukrainians are living as internally displaced people. We documented the refugee crisis and aid deliveries on the spot for three weeks.

2 March 2022. In east Ukraine, the main street of the small village of Barabás is calm, despite Europe going through its worst crisis since World War II. The border is just a few minutes’ drive away, and on the other side, in Ukraine, Russia’s brutal war of aggression is raging.

The local village house in Barabás has been turned into a refugee shelter, where Ukrainians who’ve left their homes and crossed the border can find safety. From there, they continue towards the Hungarian capital Budapest.

The refugee crisis that has resulted from the war looks somehow different to what we’re used to seeing in news images. The camps that we’ve seen in traditional refugee imagery are missing from the sides of the roads, and some people are driving to safety in their modern cars. Almost everyone has a smartphone, and their clothes are unscathed; yet still these people are running for their lives.

Inside the village house, there are tired families, to whom volunteers are serving food and drinks. The journey has been long, but the kids still have some energy left. They’re colouring at the tables, and you can hear someone giggle.

Luokkahuone, joka on täynnä tavarakasoja.

Tired families gathered inside the village house in Barabás.

Katunäkymä. Tien reunassa on pysäköitynä auto, jonka vieressä seisoo ihmisiä.

Barabás, a small city with a population of 700, is located in the border area between Ukraine and Hungary. It became the first point of humanitarian aid Finn Church Aid and its sister organisation HIA – Hungary shared when the Ukraine’s war began in February.

Chop railway station

Kristina is standing outside, and her eyes seem sore from crying. The young woman has fled Russian aggression twice already. In 2014, she left her home in Lugansk in east Ukraine, and she thought she’d be able to return home after three days.

The days turned into eight years, and Kristina settled in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine. In February 2022, she had to flee again, and catching an evacuation train wasn’t easy.

“People started to panic and run and push each other. There were men to whom we tried to tell that children must be protected first, then women and lastly men. Everyone was trying to save themselves,” Kristina says. She fled together with her mother and cat.

Kristina escaped with her cat. She’s been living as a refugee since 2014 when she first had to leave her home in East Ukraine’s Lugansk.

At the railway station of Chop on the Ukrainian side of the border, an elderly lady sat in a half-empty departure lounge introduces herself as Nadiya Petrovna Chiripovskaya. She says she had started her journey from the badly bombed Kharkiv.

Mrs Nadiya describes the first strikes as loud and scary. The calendar says it’s 5 March, but it’s difficult for her to remember when the journey began: “My children just took me with them.”

Mrs Nadiya left her home city of Kharkiv after the first attacks reached the city.

Many people leave the border crossing with a broken heart. Men are wiping their eyes and hugging low-spirited women and children, who are going to cross the border to Hungary and head to safety. Men of fighting age turn their cars around to cross the Carpathian Mountains, heading back to their homes and bases. No one knows when they can see their loved ones again – or whether this was a goodbye.

Utuisen maiseman horisontissa kohoaa vuoria.

A scene from Berehove.

Border town school turned into refugee shelter

Although millions of Ukrainians have left their home country, an even larger number of people is living as internally displaced people within the borders of Ukraine. In the border town of Berehove, a school hosts almost 80 internally displaced Ukrainians. There are five bunks beds placed a small room, and there’s a family of five sitting on them: father Kirill, mother Ljubov, siblings Alica and Masha, and their relative Daria.

The family used to work at a theatre in Kharkiv and fled west as soon as the bombings and shelling began. Many loved ones stayed behind.

“They are hiding in basements, staying at metro stations for various days and trying to find food in inconceivable ways,” says father Kirill.

Kaksi naista ja kaksi tyttöä katsoo suoraan kameraan.

 Ljubov (back in the left), Daria, Alica (front) and Masha are from Kharkiv.

The family already misses having things to do. The following day, Kirill is going to go to a job interview, and the women are planning to weave protective nets for the Ukrainian army.

The other family staying in the room has a small cat, and the animal is jumping from one bed to another. Larissa, wearing a scarf around hear head, says that it took four days for the family to reach Berehove from Kharkiv.

“We’re happy to have a warm place to sleep, we get food three times a day, we can wash ourselves and do laundry.”

Larissa has cancer. In Kharkiv, she was given treatment, but the hospital has been destroyed by bombs. Now she wonders if it would be possible to be admitted to a Hungarian hospital, but she’s hesitant. The family members would end up apart, because her partner has to stay in Ukraine.

öinen katunäkymä. Taustalla näkyy kadun yli levittäytyvä jouluvalo.
öinen katunäkymä. Taustalla näkyy kadun yli levittäytyvä jouluvalo.

Angel-shaped Christmas lights are watching over the streets of Lviv in Western Ukraine.

Kaksi ihmistä kellarin käytävällä. Etualalla alas vievät rappuset.
Kaksi ihmistä kellarin käytävällä. Etualalla alas vievät rappuset.

A basement in Lviv, turned into a bomb shelter during air raids.

Air raid in Lviv

On 11 March, an air raid makes children and grownups jump out of their beds in Lviv, approximately 60 kilometres from the border with Poland. The time is 5.25, when the smartphone app starts to make a wailing sound. Quilted trousers on, coat on, two flights of stairs down, and to the basement door.

Two families with children come to the bomb shelter. One of the children is sneezing and coughing; another one finds a piece of chalk and draws a heart on the foundation of the shelter. Previously someone has played noughts and crosses on the staircase.

Anna and her cat Gorgik.

The girl continues her work tirelessly, and soon every stair in the bomb shelter is decorated with a lilac heart.

At 7.34, the app says that the danger is over.

Later on the same day, in the buzz of the Lviv railway station, we meet Anna, shivering in the station tunnel with her mother Natalia and cat Gorkik. The ginger animal leans firmly against Anna’s chest and trembles.

One day at a time

In the outskirts of Lviv, 6-year-old boy Kyryl is leaning against a door frame with a grin on his face. He’s full of energy, and he’s jumping up and down in a room with mattresses on the floor. After fleeing Kyiv, the little rascal has spent four days in a refugee shelter at a church.

Kyryl, 6, is happy to find a place to play after leaving his home in Kiev.

Next to him, his sister says that Kyryl probably doesn’t understand he’s escaping. Many parents tell a similar story: children see the situation as a peculiar holiday, and they continue playing whenever an opportunity arises.

Igor, his mom Natalia and baby Nastia.

Natalia Karpienko and her 9-year-old son Igor are staying in the room next door. On the bed lies the youngest guest of the shelter, Nastia. The two-month-old smells of sweet breastmilk, and she’s making happy sounds. Her small feet are kicking inside the playsuit, and there’s a white beanie on her head.

Natalia says they’ve come from the Kyiv region, near Boryspil. “When the bombings started at night, I didn’t know where to go. I was scared that our house would be destroyed. In this shelter I feel safe.”

400 meals a day

After mid-March, people have been fleeing the war for the fourth consecutive week. It’s striking to see that the border crossing between Hungary and Ukraine is now controlled by women in military outfits. Maybe all capable men are already fighting?

The border town of Berehove is full of internally displaced Ukrainians. Finn Church Aid and its sister organisation Hungarian Interchurch Aid are supporting refugees with food and material deliveries. The hardest work is done by local volunteers, who have been working around the clock for weeks to help refugees.

The kitchen at a refugee shelter set up in a school is managed by Ivonna Kobypyavska. She’s worked in the same kitchen for 27 years already, but now she’s feeding refugees instead of school children. Ivonna’s son went to fight in Kyiv, so she wanted to do something useful; hence, she continued to work in the kitchen without pay.

Neljä naista kuvattuna seinässä olevan ikkunan läpi. Naiset työskentelevät keittiössä.

A school kitchen in Berehove is feeding now 400 refugees a day.

Now Ivonna and her team prepare 400 meals a day to fill the stomachs of refugees. Just a month ago, she was feeding 40 school kids. She starts her days in the kitchen at 6am and goes home at 11pm.

“But it’s not a big deal,” Ivonna notes and smiles, looking baffled. Routine, routine, the translator says Ivonna has just told us.

On the top floor of the school, there’s still the theatre family from Kharkiv we met weeks ago. Mother Ljubov is worried, because for a few days the family hasn’t been able to contact friends in Mariupol. Larissa, the cancer patient staying in the same room, has been admitted to a hospital in a nearby town. Her partner and daughter have stayed at the shelter, as has their cat Bella. Bella is walking on the bed frame and playfully pokes her paws towards the guests.

Ljubov says that her husband Kirill hasn’t managed to find work yet. The future seems hazy, but three weeks at the shelter has made the family consider what to do next. Ljubov has been toying with ideas: maybe Poland, if she can find a suitable art project. We say goodbye to the family and wish them the best of luck.

In mid-April, we receive a message. Daria from the theatre family tells us she’s gone to Italy to try her wings. The other girls of the family are in Georgia, and father Kirill has stayed in Berehove.


Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Photos: Antti Yrjönen
Translation: Anne Salomäki

Tyttö istuu kyykyssä kapealla sillalla.

10-year-old Mariia fleed with her family from Kharkiv to West Ukrainian city Berehove. Mariia misses her school.

Junan kylki. Ikkunoiden takana näkyy junassa istuvia ihmisiä.

The war in Ukraine began on February 24th. Over 10 million people have fleed both inside and across the borders of Ukraine.

“Most mothers are here alone with their children” — Ukrainian teacher Erika Pavliuk helps refugees staying at the school

“Most mothers are here alone with their children” — Ukrainian teacher Erika Pavliuk already misses her blackboard, but first she helps refugees staying at the school

When Russia attacked Ukraine, English teacher Erika Pavliuk sent her students home and started volunteering at the refugee shelter set up at the school. Pavliuk helps internally displaced people who’ve fled other parts of Ukraine by offering a bed, warmth, and food. 

“I HEARD the news from my husband. He was surfing on the internet and said the words that will always play in my head: our country has been attacked.” 

English teacher Erika Pavliuk sits in her empty classroom in Berehove in eastern Ukraine, near the border with Hungary, and runs over the events of an early Thursday morning. It was 24 February 2022, and Russia had begun a brutal war of aggression against Ukraine. 

Pavliuk says that she, in disbelief, dismissed the news at first. The family members continued with morning routines in uncertainty.  Their 5-year-old daughter was taken to daycare, and unaware of what was really happening, Pavliuk headed to her workplace in the local school. 

In the first class of the day, the teacher was standing in front of her 12-year-old pupils in the classroom. The atmosphere was dreary. 

“I remember a boy sitting in class looking really pale. His nose started to bleed. I told the pupils to put their books aside and decided to just talk about what the children were most worried about. Practically, my pupils were afraid of being killed soon,” Pavliuk recalls. 

After the first class on Thursday, the school received instructions from authorities. Teaching had to be suspended and all pupils were to be sent home. 

“The daycare of my daughter also rang me to say that she must be picked up immediately. As soon as I arrived, the children had already been evacuated from the building. They were waiting for their parents outside, and at that moment nobody knew what would happen next.” 

Working as an English teacher in a school located in the West Ukrainian city Berehove, Erika Pavliuk says that she, in disbelief, dismissed the news about the war at first.

A few of weeks later, we already know a little more about what would happen in the coming months. In March, Russia would carry out missile strikes against the most strategically important targets in western Ukraine as well, but the most destructive battles would take place elsewhere in the country. 

In early April, already four million Ukrainian refugees would have crossed the border to neighbouring countries. On top of this, western Ukraine would receive an immense number of internally displaced people. 

From a teacher to a volunteer 

As the war went on, Pavliuk, her colleagues, and other residents of the small town of Berehove began to understand the situation. Refugees from other parts of Ukraine started to arrive at the school already at the end of February. 

In a matter of days, the entire town of Berehove set out to help those fleeing war. The teachers, school cooks, and other members of staff started volunteering. Pavliuk and her colleagues went through donations, organised things on behalf of refugees arriving at the centre, and helped them with whatever issues they might face. 

The days were long for everyone, and there was no time for days off. Pavliuk says that time went by fast. 

“The energy just came from somewhere. People needed help. I didn’t feel tired during the day, but when I went home, I fell asleep immediately when my head hit the pillow.”

Luokkahuone, jossa on pyykkiteline. Luokkahuone, jossa on pyykkiteline.

The school soon became an important hub, as it was possible to prepare food for large crowds in its big kitchen. In normal times, 300 pupils go to the school. 

“During the first days, some refugees only stayed at the shelter for a few hours, took a shower, and ate something. After that, they continued towards the border. We didn’t know what direction the situation would take,” Pavliuk says. 

The school can accommodate approximately 80 refugees in bunk beds in the rooms previously used by school students. As the fighting dragged on, some of the refugees stayed at the shelter for weeks. Hungarian Interchurch Aid, a partner organisation of Finn Church Aid, provided the kitchen with new refrigeration equipment, numerous food deliveries, and a washing machine for the utility room. 

Fathers stay on the front line 

As a volunteer, Pavliuk has heard stories from various families fleeing fighting, and she feels moved recalling them. Many of those who’ve stayed at the shelter for longer don’t intend to cross the border to Hungary unless they absolutely have to. Many plan on returning home or at least as close to it as possible. Pavliuk understands them. 

“Every morning I wake up feeling thankful for having had a peaceful night here (in western Ukraine). I have grown up here, I was born here, my parents and many generations before them have lived here. I can’t even begin to imagine leaving my home and my town just because some aggressor forces me to do so.” 

Pavliuk deems witnessing the everyday life of mothers and children at the shelter particularly difficult. 

“Most of the mothers are here alone with their children. Normally they live closely together with their husbands, and now the men are in the army. My heart hurts just thinking about them having to look after their children in a place they don’t really know. There are eight people living in each room, and they don’t know these people, even if now they’re slowly getting to know each other.” 

Erika Pavliuk says she misses her students and is hoping to get back to her work as an English teacher as soon as possible.

Pavliuk sees a silver lining in the crisis: she says that the war and the consequential refugee crisis have made people work together in unprecedented ways. Just like Pavliuk, many people living in the border town of Berehove are citizens of two countries and cultures, and cohabitation hasn’t always been easy. 

“I’m Hungarian by nationality, but I’ve lived on the Ukrainian side all my life, so I’m also Ukrainian. There have been disagreements between Hungarians and Ukrainians as well as other minorities in this area. I feel like things are no longer like that.” 

Remote teaching started after pausing for weeks 

Pavliuk says that before the war, people in her school were already looking forward to returning to business as usual after a long pandemic. Due to the war, the state of emergency in the school has continued. Already knowing how to teach and study remotely came in handy in late March, when the pupils in Berehove returned to remote teaching after a three-week break.  

The children at the refugee shelter have been able to sign up for classes in Ukrainian schools in the town or continue studying with their own classes if their schools have been able to provide teaching. The children log in on classes in the computer classroom at the shelter. 

Pavliuk’s Hungarian-speaking pupils stayed at home, as their school was still full of refugees. During the day, Pavliuk works at the shelter, and in the evenings, she prepares her English classes for the following day. She seems moved when she talks about her 12 to 18-year-old students. 

“They’re teenagers. We have our ups and downs, but we can always find a solution to our difficulties. I love them.” 

She already knows that some pupils have fled from Ukraine to Hungary and they won’t be coming back to her classes. Pavliuk takes a deep breath and looks around in her own empty classroom. What is her biggest wish? 

“To be able to teach normal classes. I want to write on that blackboard and…,” she hesitates for a moment and starts laughing tiredly, “…yell at my students for not having done their homework.” 


Text: Ulriikka Myöhänen
Photos: Antti Yrjönen

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa 

Worst drought in forty years and aid cuts cause hunger for millions in East Africa

The worst drought in forty years is hitting East Africa, pushing many in the region to the brink of famine. Despite the situation, governments across the Europe, including Finland, are cutting funding from development budgets and reallocating it to Ukraine. Tackling one crisis at the cost of another is not a sustainable solution.

IN KENYA, an assessment conducted by Finn Church Aid (FCA) revealed that some main water sources – rivers, boreholes, water pans and shallow wells – have insufficient water for both humans and livestock. Many boreholes are already dry, forcing people to travel over seven kilometers to collect water. Almost one million head of livestock have died in Garissa county in Kenya. 

In Somalia, armed clashes, terrorist attacks, growing prices of food commodities are increasing the hardship caused by the drought.

“Aid actors are afraid that violence is making access to hard-to-reach communities even more limited, even to assess what the needs are, and we fear the worst,” said Ikali Karvinen, FCA Country Director, Somalia. 

Climate change is a man-made crisis

FCA is assisting people in Kenya and Somalia with cash transfers, particularly to families without adult members or those headed by pregnant or lactating mothers, which will allow these people to buy food until the rainy season. However, the World Food Programme reports that 13 million people are facing acute food insecurity and severe water shortages in East Africa.

“This is another man-made crisis, just like Ukraine, except that the cause of the drought is climate change,” said Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA. “Those of us who still remember the famine in Ethiopia in the ‘80s are haunted by it. This is a similar event across a larger scale, but we have the means to prevent the suffering that the ‘80s famine caused.” 

“I have eight children. This drought has affected my family greatly. There are days we go without eating. Life is tough here. Sometimes the food we get here is rice and beans”, said Fatuma Garane, a widow from Balambala, Garissa County, in Kenya. PHOTO: BRIAN OTIENO/FINN CHURCH AID

While climate change is increasing the frequency and severity of weather events, the funding needed to aid those who suffer is decreasing. Simultaneously, governments in Europe are reallocating funding to Ukraine. In 2017, 10% of development funding from Finland was spent on humanitarian programmes. In 2022, it is anticipated to be only 7% with the Finnish government planning to further slash aid levels for 2023.

Tackling one crisis while increasing instability somewhere else is not a sustainable solution. Concurrently these decisions seriously harm the relations created with developing countries. 

“Developed countries, those who are largely responsible for climate change, must take responsibility for this. We must help those who are suffering because of it,” said Hemberg. 

Contact information:


Executive Director, Mr. Jouni Hemberg, jouni.hemberg[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +358 50 325 9579


FCA’s Somalia Country Director, Mr. Ikali Karvinen, ikali.karvinen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi, tel. +252 617 234 597, WhatsApp +358 40 509 8050

The impact of the war in Ukraine isn’t limited to Europe

The impact of the war in Ukraine isn’t limited to Europe

The war in Ukraine not only transformed European security policy – it also has global effects that can bring about new security threats. Whilst we support Ukraine and tackle a humanitarian crisis in Europe, the wider consequences of the war must be noted, too.

By various measures, the world has taken a turn for the better in the past few decades. Economic developments, investments in public services, and development co-operation for its part have been successful. Extreme poverty has halved, an increasing number of girls go to school, and the global child mortality rate has decreased, although the differences between countries remain sizeable.

The covid-19 pandemic has undermined human development significantly, and the need for humanitarian aid around the world is at a historic high. Lengthy school closures have led to enormous learning loss particularly in developing countries, where the opportunities for providing remote teaching have been limited. In Finn Church Aid’s countries of operation, for example in Uganda, schools were closed for two years.

The war in Ukraine has raised the prices of food and fuel, which undermines food security in developing countries, already weakened by the pandemic and climate crisis. The food crisis also has an immense impact on education. Longstanding positive progress is about to grind to a halt and extreme poverty is on the rise again. An increasing number of countries are threatened by a prolonged and deepening crisis.

“Longstanding positive progress is about to grind to a halt and extreme poverty is on the rise again.”

The food crisis increases the likelihood of more and more children and young people suspending or quitting their studies. In poor households living off small-scale farming, children and young people are needed for work and making a living for their families. Girls are particularly at risk of having to drop out of school, because growing poverty leads to a rise in the number of child marriages and teenage pregnancies.

Pupils queuing in front of their school in Uganda.
Pupils report for school at Sweswe Primary School in Kyaka II Refugee Settlement, Uganda. Uganda reopened schools on January 10, after over 80 weeks of lockdown during the covid-19 pandemic. Photo: Esther Mbabazi

In addition, governments in Finland and some other European countries are planning cuts on development funding or reallocating funds to Ukraine. Dealing with one crisis in a way that threatens to increase instability in other nearby areas is a poor solution, as well as damaging important partnerships with developing countries.

For the European Union, building equal partnerships with developing countries, such as African states, should be an important strategic direction. In a multipolar world, developing countries can choose their partners too. Democracy, human rights and a rule-based international community are best promoted through equal partnerships. The warmer welcome to Ukrainian refugees in comparison to those from elsewhere has been noted around the world. Compare also the EU recently being unwilling to compromise on questions that African states find important, such as patent waivers on covid-19 vaccines and treatments, and migration issues.

The war in Europe only emphasises the fact that investments in education, livelihood, conflict prevention, peace work, and genuine partnerships are the most effective and affordable forms of crisis management. As a counterbalance, there is a danger of growing instability in the vicinity of Europe. This is not unavoidable, if we’re ready to invest in positive solutions.


The author is the Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.

FCA expands operation to aid people displaced by war in Ukraine

Finn Church Aid expands operation to aid people displaced by war in Ukraine

Finn Church Aid (FCA) announced on Monday that they are scaling up their response to the war in Ukraine by deploying staff in Ukraine and neighbouring countries and expanding their programs beyond immediate aid.

IN RESPONSE to the war, which has forced over three million people to flee Ukraine, FCA announced plans for a multi-country response that includes the deployment of staff to the Ukraine and Hungary. Currently, FCA supports Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) who is assisting people in Hungary, the Transcarpathia region and in Lviv with food, water, hygiene items and life-saving medical equipment.

“Finns have donated generously to our response to aid those who have been affected by the war in Ukraine and we are responding now and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future. Our experience serving refugees in other countries, particularly in education, will be invaluable in assisting those inside and outside Ukraine, especially women and children,” says Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA.

15,254 people have already been assisted by the joint efforts of FCA and HIA by the delivery of seven million euro of life-saving medical equipment to Western Ukraine and 278 metric tons of food and other essential items to a number of locations where displaced people are located. HIA has established reception centres for those who have fled the conflict, both on the Hungary-Ukraine border and in Budapest.

“Some of these people have left their home in ten or twenty minutes – they have left everything behind. Their journey to Lviv and further has taken 24 hours or more. Some of the families have been living in shelters for days, even weeks. Their needs at the moment are acute – they are hungry, thirsty and exhausted,” says Ulriikka Myöhänen, FCA spokesperson, who has visited Lviv and other areas in Ukraine in the past week.

People fleeing from Ukraine queuing for train photographed in the beginning of March in the Western city of Lviv. Photo: Antti Yrjönen/FCA

FCA is assessing more partners in countries hosting refugees from Ukraine

Staff from FCA will work in Hungary and Ukraine to support HIA with the management of the response, education in emergencies and communications. FCA is also assessing other partners so that they can expand their operations into other countries that are hosting refugees from Ukraine.

“We pray that peace will come soon but, even if it does, the war has already taken an unimaginable toll on Ukraine and its people. As experts in education, one of the things that we can do is ensure that children continue their education and we aim to find ways to do this for children who have been displaced by this conflict,” says Hemberg.

“All of them worry about the future, how to earn a living and how to get their children to school again,” says Myöhänen.

Contact information:

International Communications Specialist Melany Markham
melany.markham[at]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi
+45 9194 26709


FCA spokesperson Ulriikka Myöhänen
ulriikka.myohanen[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi
+358 50 576 7948
(on the ground in Ukraine and Hungary)

Finn Church Aid supports operations in Ukraine

Finn Church Aid supports operations in Ukraine

Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) offers aid at a shelter on the border of Hungary and Ukraine. They are also working in Lviv and the Transcarpathia region in Ukraine.

Finn Church Aid (FCA) announced on Saturday March 5th, 2022 that, in cooperation with Hungarian Interchurch Aid, they are establishing operations in the city of Lviv and in the Transcarpathia region of Ukraine to aid those affected by the war.

AN APPEAL from FCA, the largest aid organisation in Finland, has so far raised euro 2 million for those affected by the conflict.  Thousands of people from Kyiv and further east have fled towards the western city of Lviv where FCA’s partner, Hungarian Interchurch Aid (HIA) has established a base for operations.

“As Lviv has yet not been the site of military action, HIA and FCA decided that it was an ideal location from which to help people in Ukraine,” said Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director, FCA. “We have a long relationship with HIA working in other crisis and we work well together. We are already supporting their work aiding refugees on the border of Hungary, so when they decided to establish operations in Lviv, it was with our wholehearted support.”

As an immediate response to the people in Lviv, HIA is planning to meet basic needs with food, water, blankets and soap as they assess how to scale up the operation.

“Waves of displaced people are arriving day by day – by train, by bus, car. Most of them trying to flee to one of the borders. This is the first place where they can feel a moment of safety. Most of the people we have talked to here had to leave with only hours of notice. They packed whatever they could and left most of their belongings behind,” said Giuliano Stochino, Regional Coordinator, HIA, who is based in Lviv.

“It’s relatively safe and organised calm (in Lviv). There’s no panic, rather, an amazing level of humanitarian response to the needs arising. Everybody is trying to help in whatever way that they can, be that from the volunteers who are providing two or three meals at the train station or people working at the coordination points,” said Stochino.

According to the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) 1.5 million people have been displaced by the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and over a million people have fled across borders during the past week. An indeterminate number of people are displaced within Ukraine, including many migrants and asylum seekers from other countries.

“There is a huge need to scale up this response. We are seeing that people are staying longer; about ten to fifteen percent have declared that they will stay inside the country,” said Stochino.

“We will offer our support to everyone fleeing the conflict, targeting the most vulnerable and those most in need,” said Hemberg. “Over the following days and weeks we will continue to assess and adapt our operations to ensure that we help in the best way possible,” he added.


For an interview with Jouni Hemberg or Guiliano Stochino, please contact:


HELSINKI – Erik Nyström, erik.nystrom(at)kua.fi +358 5038 07250


COPENHAGEN – Melany Markham melany.markham(at)kua.fi +45 9194 2670

FCA grants its first euro 1/2 million to aid Ukrainians affected by the conflict

FCA grants its first euro 1/2 million to aid Ukrainians affected by the conflict

People lie on the floor in a subway station.
People rest in the Kyiv subway, using it as a bomb shelter in Kyiv, Ukraine on Thursday 24th February 2022. Photo: AP / LEHTIKUVA / EMILIO MORENATTI

Finn Church Aid (FCA) today pledged euro 1/2 million of its emergency response to aid displaced families in Ukraine and Hungary.

OVER ONE MILLION euro has been donated to FCA since the beginning of on the 24 February and the first part of the grant will help meet the basic needs, such as food, blankets and sleeping bags, of those affected by the conflict in Ukraine and refugees that have arrived in Hungary.

Hungary has received tens of thousands of refugees from the Ukraine. FCA funds Hungarian Interchurch Aid, which works both in Ukraine and Hungary, who is distributing 28 tonnes of food at the border area.

“There has been a profoundly generous response to our appeal for those displaced by the conflict in the Ukraine,” says Jouni Hemberg, Executive Director of Finn Church Aid.

“We are sending half of the funds raised directly to our Hungarian partner, who has established operations in Ukraine and Hungary. At the same time, we are assessing the needs of these people as to how we can help in the days and weeks to come.”

While FCA currently supports those affected by the conflict in Ukraine, it also has the capacity to meet long-term needs, such as food, sanitation, psychosocial support, education in emergencies and livelihoods through its membership of the ACT Alliance.

The need for assistance in Ukraine enormous. In a country of over 40 million people 3 million were already in need of humanitarian assistance before the current war. The United Nations refugee agency estimates that over half a million people have already crossed borders into countries neighbouring Ukraine. The need for assistance is expected to increase dramatically in the following days. Many of those who have fled describe the haste with which they left and their difficult journey.

“The women of my family have decided to take our children away from danger. We went where the car was taking us, I don’t remember most of the journey. My children were asking where are we going and I couldn’t come up with an answer. We heard that the Polish border is completely jammed, so we decided to cross the mountains and try to make it into Hungary. My sister is still on the way, I have no idea where she or my nieces are,” said Yelena, a mother of three children.

“We’ve been standing here at this border checkpoint for more than five hours, it is cold and my children are freezing. It is amazing to see that people are here to help, and even just talking to you gives us hope for a better future ,” she said.

Images of Ukrainian refugees by Antti Yrjönen can be found here -credit Finn Church Aid/Antti Yrjönen
For more information or interviews, please contact Melany Markham +45 9194 2670 melany.markham[a]kirkonulkomaanapu.fi

Seeds of new life for those who lost everything in Haiti earthquake

Seeds of new life for those who lost everything in Haiti earthquake

Rebuilding has been slow, following the earthquake that hit Haiti in August 2021. Distribution of seeds and saplings improve food security and help people make a living.

IN AUGUST 2021, a devastating earthquake shattered the lives of tens of thousands of families in southern Haiti. The UN estimated in the autumn that in the regions worst hit by the destruction, Grand’Anse and Nippe, more than 650,000 people were in need of immediate disaster relief.

Due to challenging circumstances, rebuilding has been slow. The Haiti relief operation has been complicated not only by the devastation caused by the earthquake but also by criminal gangs seeking to benefit from the chaos in the region.

In cooperation with its German partner Diakonie Katastrophenhilfe (DKH) from the ACT Alliance, and the local organisation Fondation Nouvelle Grand’Anse (FNGA), Finn Church Aid’s work in Haiti includes supporting a training focused on farming methods in Haiti, in addition to distributing seed packets. In 2021, 813 people participated in the training, and 810 farmers received packets containing material needed for growing produce such as yams and peppers. The aim of the project is to reach 1,000 people through the training, and to distribute farming assistance to 1,000 farmers.

In addition, families have received assistance in cash, enabling them to buy plantain cuttings from local farmers. Selling cuttings promotes the local economy and supports the livelihood of the farmers while growing plantains for food also helps families.

Nainen kerää muovipussiin viljelykasvin taimia Haitissa. Vieressä istuu vihreäpaitainen mies.
Mother of five Augustin Magalite picked up seeds and saplings for her garden, in order to secure the livelihood of her family. Photo: DKH

Seeds help to make a fresh start

One of the people picking up the seeds to make a fresh start was mother of five Augustin Magalite, 47. The autumn was a sad time for the family. Magalite’s spouse had recently passed away, and her cousin disappeared in the August earthquake while in the yard at home. The son of another cousin was shot, and was seriously injured. Even one of Magalite’s children was hurt during the earthquake.

Life suddenly became rough, and there was a shortage of everything.

“Without this assistance, we wouldn’t be able to grow anything in our garden this year. All my money went to the funeral of my spouse, who died in the autumn. This arrived just in time, like a breath of fresh air,” says Magalite after receiving seeds and saplings to secure the family’s food supply.

The Magalite family is no stranger to devastation caused by natural disasters. In 2016, Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti and took their home. Rebuilding their life is all too familiar.

“Now I can grow food for my children and sell some of the crops in order to earn money.”

After the earthquake took everything, a garden of one’s own provides a livelihood

Life has also been hard for Marie Milianne, 53. Like Magalite, the widowed mother of five rebuilt her life after the 2016 hurricane. Her house was almost completed when she lost it in the August earthquake. Unlike Magalite, Milianne says that she has received disaster relief in the form of hygiene supplies and shelter.

For Milianne, who supports herself by farming, having a garden of her own is a necessity. She tells us that she shares her farming expertise with others who have received seeds and saplings as relief, and soon she hopes to have saved enough money to be able to buy livestock.

Mies taluttaa aasia. Taustalla seisoo muita ihmisiä, joiden jaloissa on täysiä muovisäkkejä.
Farmer Dieudonné Victorin, along with his donkey, picked up seeds and saplings distributed to victims of the earthquake. He believes that they will help him secure a better livelihood for his family and allow him to help others as well. Photo: DKH

Farmer and father of four Dieudonné Victorin, 54, lost both his home and his brother in the August earthquake. In the autumn, an emergency shelter set up in the neighbour’s yard has served as home for the family.

“I’m sowing these seeds to grow crops with which I can also help my sisters and brothers,” says Victorin.

As a professional farmer he believes that the seeds he received as relief will provide good crops. Still, he also hopes to receive assistance in cash, which he could use to buy the supplies that his family needs.

Finn Church Aid has supported the Haiti relief operation from its disaster fund. A total of 200,000 euros has been allocated to the operation.

To provide immediate emergency relief in the Grand’Anse region in Haiti, FCA’s partner organisations DKH and FNGA have already provided 1,005 families with shelter serving as housing, as well as basic food products. An additional 1,005 families have received hygiene supplies. Relief distribution continues in the region, and 1,000 families are provided with cash assistance allowing them to buy necessities such as groceries or equipment used for rebuilding.

In addition to cash assistance, 16 local loan groups granting microloans are set up in the region. These microloans are used to support the livelihood and survival of 16,500 people after the earthquake.


Text: Elisa Rimaila
Translation: Leena Vuolteenaho

Drought and famine threaten the lives of millions in East Africa

Drought and famine threaten the lives of 60 million people in East Africa

Somalia, the northern parts of Kenya and southern Ethiopia are the areas worst affected by a drought that has caused a prolonged hunger crisis.

AN EXTENDED drought has led to a major humanitarian crisis in East Africa, particularly in parts of Somalia, southern Ethiopia and northern Kenya. Meanwhile South Sudan, which has been suffering from a bad drought for a long time, is flooded.

Since autumn 2020, seasonal rainfall in the Horn of Africa has been delayed three times. The underlaying causes are climate change and the La Niña event which cools down seawater in the Pacific Ocean. The current drought is expected to continue well into spring 2022.

Children are at particular risk

In November, the World Food Programme (WFP) warned that famine would threaten nearly 60 million people in East Africa. Save the Children said in early December that this year hunger had caused the deaths of an estimated 260,000 children under the age of five in East Africa. Without emergency humanitarian assistance, this figure is expected to increase.

This December, more than 1.7 million children under the age of five suffered from acute malnutrition and 213,000 children in the same age group suffered from severe malnutrition in Kenya and Somalia alone.

Drought endangers livelihoods in areas that are already vulnerable, and children’s schooling may be interrupted due to illness and poor nutrition.

Archive photo. Bones of dead animals on the ground.
Bones of dead animals scatter the roadside half an hour away from Lokichar, Turkana, Kenya. Many pastoralists have lost their livestock like goats, camels, cows and sheep to drought. Photo: Tatu Blomqvist / Finn Church Aid

Hunger weakens the immune system

Risto Härmä, Head of Humanitarian Assistance for the Middle East and East Africa at Finn Church Aid (FCA), says that as prolonged starvation weakens the immune system, people are exposed to various infectious diseases. For young children, ordinary diarrhoea becomes deadly when their body is already exhausted and proper treatment is not available.

“Drought-affected areas are very remote and the journey to the clinic can be very long, if not impossible,” says Härmä.

Treatment at a medical clinic is needed for people whose bodies are no longer able to consume ordinary food after prolonged malnutrition, even when it is available.

Hunger threatens Somalia again

Somalia suffered a bad famine in 2011 when more than a quarter of a million people died of starvation, half of them young children. There are fears that a similar disaster is about to happen again.

“Here in Somalia, more than 80 per cent of the country has been exposed to either a very severe or moderate drought,” says Ikali Karvinen, Director of FCA’s Country Office in Somalia.

Drought has the most perilous consequences on those living in rural and remote areas, where people earn their livelihood from farming and raising livestock. When animals run out of grazing lands and water, people also face an increased risk of famine.

“One fifth of the population lives in areas suffering from severe water shortages. It is estimated that by the end of 2021, the food security of 3.5 million people may be threatened,” says Karvinen.

State of emergency declared in parts of Somalia

A state of emergency has been declared in some Somali states due to the drought. The crisis has caused a sharp rise in prices, undermining the purchasing power of Somalis. An acute shortage of cash has forced some people in need of money to make quick decisions, such as selling their livestock.

“This is going to be a prolonged crisis. At the moment, it doesn’t look good,” says Karvinen.

Finn Church Aid receives funding from the European Commission’s Directorate-General for European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (DG ECHO) for an education and training project that aims to keep children in school in the face of a complex crisis. The humanitarian disaster in Somalia has been exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic, the protracted terrorist threat and the Somali government’s poor ability to provide basic services to citizens.


By Elisa Rimaila
Translation: Päivi Creber