Interview with beneficiaries in Verkhniotoretske, February 2017
Photo : TGH ©
Stéphane Vengut took part in the multisectoral evaluations along the line of contact to identify the humanitarian needs of the populations before the opening of our mission in Ukraine, of which he is in charge today.
After our various press releases and articles on the specificity of our actions in Ukraine (the electronic voucher), what could be added that has not yet been said about this mission?
We need to make it clear that we are in a developed country and that, unlike other contexts of intervention, we easily identify with this environment. Internet is everywhere even on the line of contact. This country had an important economy, was at the forefront of Soviet technology and provided the USSR with two presidents1 . The Cossacks, which we identify with the Russians are actually Ukrainians, just like the Arkan and Gopan dances. These populations are sad to see their country drift away, their pride is affected, and it is very painful for them.
Similarly, we do not mention enough the damage caused by the mines of the defeated armies in the fields and on the roadsides. Civilians are the main victims when they go back to work in the fields in the spring. We know there is a conflict, but we do not know much about its intensity. Fighting is ongoing on the line of contact, and clashes2 continue to cause civilian and military casualties.
In terms of security, how does it work within the mission?
We have an important security monitoring. Every month (or more if required), we have a meeting with the civil or military coordination (OCHA which is called CIMIC here). This meeting brings together local and international NGOs and military authorities. We take stock of the intensity of the situation, but also of the difficulties between the military authorities and the humanitarian actors operating on the contact line, controls at checkpoint, the training of new military recruits before they take up their posts, etc. We also have a monthly meeting with INSO (safety NGO) that collects and analyzes all security events. Finally, 48 hours before any field trip, we send an information letter to CIMIC indicating the purpose of the trip, the participants, the type of vehicle and the route taken.
In concrete terms, what is a typical day like on the mission?
First, there is an important part of coordination with the different humanitarian actors. We participate in the coordination meetings of the WASH cluster3, the food security cluster, the voucher / cash working group and in the OCHA general coordination meetings. Before a meeting, we prepare the quantitative and qualitative updates of our activities, then the humanitarian actors discuss the needs, their evolution and the adaptation of our response if necessary. Sometimes I make presentations on our activities, as we are the only ones using e-vouchers, which is a relevant system within this context, and we are getting very positive results.
We also meet with our local partner Country of Free People (CFP) to coordinate our monitoring activities. CFP is currently the main signatory of the current project and we are their "local" partner. It’s a real work of guidance and capacity building.
I also work on the administrative aspects of the projects, on our relations with the donors (UNICEF, French Embassy) and on the writing of various activity reports. Concerning the management of our mission, we make sure to be up to date, from a legal point of view, with Ukrainian authorities, for example, or with our financial forecast in order to avoid breaks in funding.
During the day we sometimes go on a field trip where we assess the qualitative impact of our actions through interviews with beneficiaries, grocery partners, social services and local authorities.
Monitoring with local authorities
Photo : Stéphane Vengut / TGH ©
When you meet the beneficiaries, what kind of feedback do you receive from both the grocers and the direct beneficiaries?
Feedback is positive. The local authorities are pleased to see projects carried out on their community; beneficiaries are satisfied with the purchasing choice they have; grocery stores (mainly held by women) are satisfied with the economic repercussions of this project on their business. The “Voucher for Work” system for maintenance activities in public spaces and home care for the elderly, as well as the involvement of grocery stores in helping the most disabled use the mobile phones, help create or strengthen social cohesion and resilience among the community.
Were there any difficulties in using the vouchers?
Implementation difficulties can arise. For example, when beneficiaries die after receiving their vouchers, you have to get that money back. Same for those who move away and are no longer eligible. But this remains marginal insofar as it concerns only an average of 10 families per distribution, out of 3,600 vouchers sent.
Coordination with other humanitarian actors in the same area is more complicated. In order to avoid duplication of selection and assistance, there is an important need for coordination, data sharing, recalling and continuous exchange, which takes place mainly on a bilateral basis, upstream and during activities.
Do recipients have specific claims?
What thet want above all is work and the end of the conflict. We are in a developed country, in a region in crisis where the need for cohesion, resilience and prospects is essential. The “Voucher for Work” system set up for 300 people is highly appreciated. These are pilot activities. We are currently assessing impact and needs to submit more ambitious programme proposals.
1Léonid Brejnev and Nikita Khrouchtchev
2684 clashes in the daytime between 8 am and 5 pm during the month of February. In June, 235 clashes were recorded.
3Clusters: These are groups of humanitarian organizations specialized in each of the humanitarian intervention areas (eg Water, Hygiene and sanitation). They play a coordination role between the various actors.