Media release, 14 February 2023

HEKS/EPER has been providing emergency aid in Ukraine, its neighbouring countries and Switzerland for one year

The Russian invasion of Ukraine began almost a year ago. The aid agency of the Protestant Church in Switzerland (HEKS/EPER) and its partner organisations – all of which were already operating in the region before the crisis – have used a budget of 10 million Swiss francs in Ukraine, its neighbouring countries and in Switzerland to help the victims of the conflict. Last year HEKS/EPER supported over 650,000 Ukrainians in need.

Within a few hours of the outbreak of the conflict, HEKS/EPER provided staff, resources and expertise to support its longstanding partner organisations in Ukraine. HEKS/EPER is one of the few NGOs to have been active from the start near the battlefields – close to the front lines in eastern and southern Ukraine.
HEKS-Nothilfe in der Ukraine, in den Nachbarländern und in der Schweiz

In March, HEKS/EPER provided emergency aid in Kharkiv where food was distributed to local people in the tunnels of the subway system. Over the following weeks, HEKS/EPER extended emergency aid to the south of the country to support the most vulnerable population groups who had no opportunity to flee. HEKS/EPER has been operating as close to the front line as possible in six oblasts: Odessa, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv, Kherson, Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk. In December, the team consisted of 42 people, including 16 expats. Around 416,000 vulnerable Ukrainians have received aid in Ukraine.

In the tense and unstable situation where people had to leave and flee their homes due to combat operations, HEKS/EPER asked survivors and municipalities directly about their needs. This meant aid was provided in a targeted way and longer-term challenges were taken into account. As well as cash, repair kits were distributed so that windows and holes in walls could be sealed and houses made habitable again.

In Transcarpathia in western Ukraine where lots of people have fled the bombing, HEKS/EPER is supporting longstanding church partner organisations. The churches have provided reception centres and medical supplies and are supporting displaced persons by distributing bread and soup.

Winter aid to endure the cold

In winter, temperatures drop down to -20 °C, giving the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine another dimension and could become a matter of survival for millions of people. The targeted missile attacks on Ukraine’s energy infrastructure have now left around 10 million people without electricity, water and heating. As well as distributing hygiene kits, food and water supplies, HEKS/EPER also provides aid in the form of blankets and warm clothing. Heating stoves and wood briquettes are being issued to heat summer houses that have no heating of their own.

Menschen in der Ukraine helfen
Help for Ukraine
Emergency aid for the people on the ground & in Switzerland

Almost 250,000 people supported in neighbouring countries

After the outbreak of the conflict, HEKS/EPER also provided emergency aid for people who had fled from the bombing across the border to Romania, Hungary and the Republic of Moldova. At border posts, railway stations and airports, local partner organisations handed out food and clothing, as well as providing advice and temporary accommodation. For people not travelling further but staying in Romania or Hungary, integration support was set up, including help with finding accommodation, language courses, school enrolment for children, support with seeking employment and psychological and medical aid. 

In September 2022, HEKS/EPER also began operating in the northern part of the Republic of Moldova. The local partner organisation is supporting both displaced people and their host families with everyday items and psychological support. In the Czech Republic, HEKS/EPER is primarily supporting a church partner organisation with the provision of accommodation as well as with integration and advisory services.

Support for refugees in Switzerland

Around 70,000 people have fled to Switzerland from Ukraine since the outbreak of the war. In the Eastern Switzerland and Basel regions, HEKS/EPER arranged private accommodation for over 2,000 people. This private accommodation provided vital logistical support for the cantons and municipalities and facilitated the social integration of refugees long-term. Over recent months, the focus has shifted from accommodation to social and occupational integration – for example, with advisory services and support programmes in several cantons.
Unfortunately, there is no end to the conflict in sight as the fighting rages on. HEKS/EPER will not abandon people in need who are still reliant on the generous support and solidarity of the Swiss people.


Online review of the year
More information on emergency aid
Freely available photos

Please note: interviews with experts on the ground in operational areas can be arranged on request.


Joëlle Herren
Media and Communications Manager, French-speaking Switzerland
Joëlle Herren Laufer

Hotline : +41 21 613 44 59
Phone : +41 78 661 08 97