In the Wake of War: WFP Cash Assistance Is a Lifeline for Families Hosting Ukrainian Refugees in Moldova

Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson/2022
World Food Programme
Published April 11, 2022

When the war in Ukraine first erupted, Moldova flung open its arms to welcome Ukrainian refugees.

In early March, the government of Moldova invited the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) in to support families hosting refugees with cash assistance and hot meals. With no operational presence in Moldova, the U.N. World Food Programme handpicked around 20 staff members and swiftly deployed them to Chisinau – the capital of Moldova.

men and women in WFP vests walking
Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo/2022

The U.N. World Food Programme plans to reach 30,000 Moldovan families.

Our staff built an office from scratch, beginning in a hotel conference room and moving to a rented basement shared with Moldovan start-up companies. Soon, conversations in English, Spanish, Arabic, Romanian, Russian and Turkish filled the air and operations began.

Through the U.N. Food Programme and a network of local NGOs, refugees and host families in Moldova can now register for cash assistance. For host families, aid comes on the condition that they host at least two refugees from Ukraine for a minimum of one week.

man scanning QR code on card
Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson/2022

Moldovan families registered with the U.N. World Food Programme will receive a one-time payment of 3,500 Moldovan Lei – around $190 – to help meet the additional household costs incurred by hosting refugees.

In community halls throughout Moldova, the U.N. World Food Programme also provides three meals per day to Ukrainian families. In one community center, 400 families live, eat and sleep under the same roof until they can return home or find other options.

young girl looking at camera
Photo: WFP/Edward Johnson/2022

7-year-old Vera is one of the 4 million Ukrainian refugees who have fled their home country. Thankfully, Vera and her family have found safety with distant relatives in Moldova and are registering for cash assistance from the U.N. World Food Programme.

The U.N. World Food Programme understands that every family faces expenses and when times are tough, it is often food that is sacrificed first in order to save enough money to meet other immediate needs. Cash assistance from the U.N. World Food Programme equips families with the purchasing and decision-making power to afford food and other essentials.

Moldova was struggling even before the war erupted in Ukraine. The country relies heavily on remittances (money sent home from workers abroad) and is at high risk of climate-related and economic shocks. In 2020, on top of COVID-19, the country was also hit by drought – causing a drop in agricultural production by almost 30% along with heavy job losses. The poverty rate in 2021 was almost 27%. With that heavy combination of challenges, it is truly an inspiration that the country has shown such generosity and warmth in welcoming its neighbors from Ukraine.

The repercussions of the war in Ukraine are being felt in countries beyond neighboring ones like Moldova. Rising food and fuel prices could spell disaster for millions at a time when the U.N. World Food Programme has already warned that 2022 would be a year of catastrophic hunger, with 44 million people in 38 countries teetering on the edge of famine. As additional pressure is placed on already high food prices, the full impact of the war is undoubtedly still to come.

This story originally appeared on WFP’s Stories on April 1, 2022 and was written by Edward Johnson. To learn more about our response to the war in Ukraine, click here