As Russian aggression in Ukraine drags on and ramps up in some areas, the nation needs more and more assistance from the world. Individuals and organizations seem to be eager to help, but some find it challenging to get the goods where they are needed the most.

Containers are seen here waiting to go on a shipping dock in the port of Los Angeles, California. Photo Credit: Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

FedEx Cuts off Both Ukraine and Russia

The following statement appeared on the FedEx webpage yesterday, April 6, 2022:

We are deeply disturbed by what is happening in Ukraine, and our thoughts and solidarity are with the people affected by this ongoing violence. Our top priority is the safety of our team members and their families, and we are providing direct financial assistance to them and the affected communities. We are temporarily suspending all Russian and Belarusian services until further notice. As previously communicated, locations in Ukraine have been temporarily closed and inbound and outbound services to Ukraine have been temporarily suspended.

UPS Follows Suit

UPS has noted the fact that they have suspended shipments to Ukraine in a service alert on their website:

Screenshot of the UPS service alert saying they have suspended services to Ukraine.
Screenshot of the UPS service alert saying they have suspended services to Ukraine.

UPS is the largest carrier of goods worldwide, with annual revenues of $53 billion compared to the reported $42 billion taken in by FedEx each year.

As Does DHL

What about DHL (an American-founded company now part of Deutsche Post)? As you might have guessed, DHL has also “closed offices and operations in Ukraine until further notice,” according to their website.

There are stories of smaller companies succeeding in getting much-needed items into Ukraine.

Crowd Sourcing Ukraine’s Supply Problems

Nazarii Semchyshyn is with Michigan-based Standard Trucking, a firm owned by a Ukrainian American who allows volunteers to use the company’s loading dock and warehouse outside of Detroit. Since the beginning of the conflict in February, the volunteers have been packing and shipping items such as personal protective gear, feminine hygiene products, diapers, and medical supplies.

Says Semchyshyn:

“When you watch news and you see all those horrific acts that’s going on in Ukraine, you just feel helpless and depressed in a way,” said Nazarii Semchyshyn, who is helping to coordinate the effort. “But as soon as you start doing something, collecting things or donating, you feel better about yourself and you feel that you’re making a difference.”

To date, the company has sent at least three shipments of approximately 3,000 lbs each to Poland. All items are donated, as is the cost of the shipments.

Another business that has rushed aid to Ukraine from the US is Meest-America. This Ukrainian-owned company has collected tons of donated supplies literally in their Woodbridge, New Jersey warehouse.

Much of the humanitarian aid has yet to be delivered as the non-profits try to figure out a way to pay for the high cost of shipping.

“What we need now is money,” said Jerry Kuzemczak, a trustee at the Ukrainian American Cultural Center of New Jersey in Whippany. Last week, the center shipped its first 12 containers of humanitarian aid to Ukraine at the cost of $66,000.

Shipping supplies by air is, of course, far quicker, but it is also much more expensive than sending them by sea. An example of a discount rate is $2.30 by air vs. about $1.00 per pound by sea.

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Cash Is Getting Through

Physical donations can be cumbersome and difficult to deliver, especially in a war zone. Karolina Lindholm Billing, a Ukrainian representative for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), is working hard to ramp up a program to give cash directly to displaced Ukrainians.

Billings says, “UNHCR is planning to disburse unconditional cash grants to at least 360,000 internally displaced persons.” She notes that nearly 6.5 million Ukrainians are internally displaced out of a population of 43.7 million.

The program will begin by distributing funds through the Ukrainian postal service. Each person will get 2,220 hryvnias (about $75 per person per month) at any branch of the post office. This isn’t enough money to raise someone above the poverty level; it is simply a way to help tide people over temporarily until other help can arrive.

As Billings reminds us, “In a war zone, it’s much easier to transfer cash than to move truckloads of food, diapers, and clothes.”