By Peter Kenny
GENEVA (AA) - The psychological wounds of the war in Ukraine are adding "another cruel layer of pain" to people already struggling to cope with shelter, hunger, and livelihoods needs, the international Red Cross warned Thursday.
The International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said that as the last year's effects continue to impact families, the IFRC network is running the most extensive humanitarian response in its history.
"This grueling year has devastated the lives of millions of people, and that brings with it psychological harm as significant as physical injury," said IFRC Secretary General Jagan Chapagain, almost one year after the start of the Moscow-Kyiv war on Feb. 24, 2022.
"We are preparing to expand our mental health interventions alongside cash, shelter, medical care, and urgent assistance to help people manage the harsh winter with power cuts and water shortages," he noted.
Chapagain said Red Cross and Red Crescent teams are working everywhere -- from bomb shelters in Bakhmut to refugees' new homes across borders.
The teams have also provided more than a million people with psychosocial support since February last year.
"As time marches on, more must be done to address mental health," said the IFRC head.
- Trauma knows no borders
He said trauma knows no borders, and those in Ukraine and those who have fled need comfort, stability, and a sense of normalcy.
"We are a long way away from recovery for people from Ukraine, but ensuring support for mental health, alongside cash support, protection, and other basic services, is a way we can contribute to that eventual recovery," said Chapagain.
The Ukrainian Red Cross has provided psychosocial support to hundreds of thousands of people since the start of the conflict's escalation.
An additional 34 IFRC member national societies are delivering specialist help to hundreds of thousands who have sought safety in other countries, said Ukrainian Red Cross Director General Maksym Dotsenko.
"They have lost loved ones, homes, jobs, everything -- this is devastating enough. People's lives are in limbo, and this anguish is eating them up inside, compounding the mental health crisis even further," said Dotsenko.
"Helping families find coping mechanisms, treatment, and support is crucial for us. We are training people on how to respond to mental health emergencies, and this training is happening in bomb shelters and basements."
In neighboring countries, IFRC member national societies are receiving a growing number of pleas for mental health help via their community feedback systems.
Over the past year, the IFRC network has mobilized more than 124,000 volunteers to respond to the urgent needs of people affected by this international armed conflict.
With a 1.6 billion Swiss francs (over $1.7 billion) appeal spanning 58 countries, the IFRC network has reached more than two million people with medical care, mental health support, and shelter; and so far has distributed more than 87 million Swiss francs (over $93.3 million) in cash assistance.