Much solidarity with Ukraine: "But we must not forget other disasters"

Berlijn vlag Oekraine
Arie Kers

The war in Ukraine has caused many people to flee the country. It has been a long time since so many people fled at once. Thea Hilhorst, professor of humanitarian aid, explains the refugee-situation in Studio Erasmus. Is the Netherlands ready for this many refugees? What is the expiry date of our solidarity? She is also worried that the war in Ukraine is diverting attention and money from other humanitarian crises.

For aid organisations it is now all hands on deck. "It sounds crazy, but in real war situations you can hardly do it wrong, because everything is needed," says Hilhorst. According to the professor, the best thing the Dutch can do is give money to giro 555, which in many cases will then give it to the Ukrainian Red Cross. Dutch aid organisations themselves are not active in the area. Donating goods, if demanded by aid organisations in Ukraine, is also useful. As an example she gives the collection of water boilers after an aid organisation in Ukraine had indicated that they were very much needed.

Solidarity for Ukraine is consistent, but painful

Hilhorst calls the solidarity that she now sees for Ukrainian refugees consistent with the policy of the Dutch government, which has long been in favour of housing refugees in their own region. But this is of course painful for refugees from other countries: "We could be a bit more cordial towards refugees, I have thought that for years.” Nevertheless, she does understand that there is more empathy for this situation.

Reception is impressive

The solidarity is also creating good things. She calls the reception that is now being set up for refugees from Ukraine, impressive. According to her, the Netherlands is ready to offer good shelter. "I was at the municipality of The Hague today and everyone there is really busy with the shelter of refugees. Fantastic to see." She does foresee problems if the war lasts longer: "Then you get issues of housing and long-term care." What then is the expiry date of solidarity?

Keeping attention and money for other crisis areas

Finally, an important concern of hers is the attention paid to other crisis areas: "Don't forget that there are other crises as well." As an example, she gives Yemen. "85 per cent of the population is directly dependent on aid. Everyone is afraid that countries will now think: 'the reception of Ukrainians is so expensive, the money has to come from somewhere so we will withdraw it from other humanitarian destinations'. That would be a big fear, because you cannot withdraw from Yemen. On top of that, those countries are dependent on grain. Yemen imports all its grain, which is an unmitigated disaster."


Watch the interview in Studio Erasmus (in Dutch)

Thea Hilhorst over de humanitaire ramp in Oekraïne

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