Funding the Impossible: The Backbone of Ukraine’s Humanitarian Response

Over the past few years, FCAA has talked extensively about the need to fund community-based approaches. While always effective, this is particularly critical during times of crisis when a communities’ needs are dynamic and require an immediate response. Since February, Ukraine has shown the world, in real time, what it takes to deliver life-saving services during a crisis. It has also shown us what it takes for funders to support this work.

The impact of the war on Ukraine’s HIV epidemic – the second largest in all of Europe, behind only Russia – can’t be overstated. With massive supply chain and service disruptions, the 250,000 Ukrainians living with HIV lack access to life-saving medication and services.

Civil society, specifically community-based organizations, are stepping up in the midst of this crisis. They have quickly become the backbone of the larger humanitarian response.

Since the beginning of the war, HIV civil society has been working hard to solve supply-chain challenges. They are working to ensure that people continue to have access to prevention and treatment services as they seek safety in different parts of the country by:

  • Coordinating delivery of medicines and humanitarian aid;
  • Organizing shelter, food, and medical aid for their communities and internally displaced people; and
  • Supporting evacuation from conflict zones.

What these organizations need most from funders is flexibility. Life in a war zone changes every minute and organizations must be able to respond to the rapidly altering needs of their communities. While many donors have pledged additional funding for the humanitarian response, most come with restrictions and often leave essential needs unaddressed. In addition, very few donors have introduced flexibility that allows for quick disbursement of funds.

This may sound familiar to you; it is a point made in several of FCAA’s most recent reports. Even before COVID-19, this was a message that community-based organizations told us frequently. The pandemic showed us that flexible funding is not only possible, but highly effective. The situation in Ukraine shows us that we must make flexible, long-term funding a staple in our approach. It shouldn’t be an anomaly that we apply only to a once-in-a-century global threat, but an inherent feature of our work every day. If the past several years have taught us anything, it’s that we should always expect a crisis to be looming. We have to be prepared to support communities quickly when one arises.

In advance of the AIDS 2022 conference in Montreal, FCAA partnered with 100% Life, the largest HIV patients’ organization in Ukraine, to profile civil society’s role in the humanitarian response in the country. Our objective with this video is to improve the quality and efficiency of funding and to mobilize resources in ways that will be most effective. We wanted to center the voices of community, actively doing this work on the ground. The result of that effort is the following video.

We are so grateful to 100% Life not only for their leadership on the video, but for the incredible work they are doing every day in their country. It has confirmed for us that funding community-based organizations, being flexible, and committing to long-term support are essential steps funders should take, in times of crisis and beyond.

We’re sharing this post now with a reminder that winter will soon be approaching, which will make all of this work even more difficult and urgent. We encourage you to watch this video and consider sharing it with your colleagues and partners.

Please note, the video contains images of war and related trauma, so please take care in viewing. There is also a shortened version to support sharing, as well as a few social media posts below. If you have any other specific outreach needs, please do not hesitate to contact Sarah Hamilton.


sample social media

(1) HIV #civilsociety has been the backbone of the #humanitarian response in #Ukraine. Watch this video from 100% Life @network_of_plwh to learn why #communityled response is critical https://bit.ly/3BSIJlF #fundcommunity #fundtheimpossilble #hivinformed

(2) This powerful video from 100% Life @network_of_plwh tells the story of how an #HIVinformed response has been the backbone of humanitarian efforts in #Ukraine. Please share, tell your partners, and advocate for #communityled funding in the region. #fundtheimpossible https://bit.ly/3BSIJlF

(3) #HIV #civilsociety have made the impossible possible in #Ukraine. Watch this powerful video from 100% Life @network_of_plwh to learn why providing #communityled and flexible funding is critical. #fundcommunity #fundtheimpossilble #hivinformed https://bit.ly/3BSIJlF