Professor Thea Hilhorst: "Give Ukrainians the message that the rest of the world is watching"


Many people are wondering how they can help the people of Ukraine now. According to Thea Hilhorst, professor Humanitarian Studies at the International Institute of Social Studies, there are several ways to do so: "The value of expressing solidarity on social media is underestimated."

In an interview with the Belgian newspaper De Morgen, she says: "You can make a financial contribution. The Red Cross has already set up a helpline where people can transfer money. Of course, you can also send something to humanitarian organisations or local people."

Showing support on social media

"In addition, of course, you can read the news yourself and share accurate information. On social media you can also express your solidarity with Ukraine or sign petitions. The value of that is underestimated. Or you can talk to Ukrainian people here on the street and show them support. The important thing is to give them the message that the rest of the world is watching, and we are not forgetting about them."

Humanitarian consequences

Hilhorst says she fears a humanitarian tragedy if the conflict continues for a long time. As to whether we should also prepare for the arrival of refugees, she says: "If you look at other conflicts, you see that 95 percent of the people settle in a neighbouring country. Most people from Syria went to Lebanon or Jordan, from South Sudan they went mainly to Kenya. Whether this will also be the case here is difficult to say. There is of course a land route from Ukraine to Western Europe. And the question is also whether it is safe at the moment to go into hiding in neighbouring countries, because countries like Latvia naturally feel threatened by Russia themselves."

Offering help

Does it make sense to donate money to aid organisations? Can they now offer help in the conflict area? Hilhorst: "At the moment you see a big difference between the areas controlled by the Ukrainian government and those where the Russian separatists are in power. So, the question is what happens if more areas fall into pro-Russian hands. Apart from the question of whether they get permission from the authorities that hold power in that area, it is also a question of whether it is not too dangerous. Some organisations make different considerations here than others. In case of emergency, organisations try to provide help from a distance. And there is a possibility of sending emergency parcels that are distributed by local organisations. But in doing so, you have to get permission for that."

More information

Read the entire interview on De Morgen (in Dutch).

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