Moldova trade unions help Ukrainian refugees to help themselves

Around 90,000 Ukrainian refugees have taken refuge in Moldova from the fighting in Ukraine, and the National Confederation of Trade Unions of Moldova (CNSM), with support from the ILO, has stepped in to help.

The CNSM has made its properties available to the refugees and their families. They are being housed in the Institute of Labour in the capital, Chisinau, and in sanatoriums and are also receiving three meals a day. The programme is being supported by the ILO, along with other donors and the Moldovan government.

“CNSM is dedicated to assist people in need. When refugees began to arrive from the war in Ukraine, we immediately started a solidarity operation to assist those most in need. With support from ILO and other partners, we have been able to provide food and shelter for thousands of refugees. It shows the versatility of the trade union movement and the impact of international solidarity,” CNSM President, Igor Zubcu said.

So far the CNSM scheme has delivered more than 20,000 bed-nights — or roughly 85 bed-nights per day — which has cost US$ 71,000. Of this, the ILO has supported 3,550 bed-nights.

Rada and lurii Bigun and their five children are among those being helped by the CNSM,. The family has been housed for nearly four months at the Institute of Labour. Iurii describes ending up at the Institute of Labour as “our luckiest day ever. We’ve been provided with two rooms, great for our large family. We are very grateful to the leadership of the institute and to all those behind this project for their compassion and understanding.”

Before the war Iurii worked in Ukraine as a skilled car mechanic while Rada took care of their children. However, she also did volunteer work, creating and running a website to help raise money for the parents of sick and disabled Ukrainian children to pay for medical treatment. The stability provided by the CNSM has allowed Rada to resume this work.

“I used the website to call on people for help, and it worked. Since then, tens of Ukrainian families with disabled children received support from local sponsors, but also from Italy and the United States. I never stopped matching those in need with good-hearted people. I do this as a volunteer,” she said. “Many people in Ukraine could not flee from war due to serious health problems and they need support. Children need help more than anyone else, as war can result in lasting trauma for them.”

Moldova has also provided refugees with free guidance on accessing essential services such as social welfare payments, employment services, housing, medical treatment, and schools.

“The Institute of Labour is the training arm of CNSM,” Viorel Blaga, General Director of the CNSM explained. “We have reserved a good number of rooms in our hotel so we can host as many refugees as possible. We provide people with three meals a day. We’ve created an information desk, a laundry room, a room where children can play, and even a family fitness room. Refugees have free access to internet, among other things.”

In total more than half a million Ukrainian refugees have entered Moldova since the fighting began in February 2022, although many have moved on to other countries. Moldova has hosted more more Ukrainian refugees per capita than any other country in Europe. At the peak of the inflow, the population of Moldova increased by four per cent.