The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge have pledged to make a second donation to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s Ukraine appeal as they praised the DEC’s “incredible” total which has topped £300 million.
William and Kate hailed the generosity of the British public, with the duke highlighting how the huge total was raised during the difficult financial situation many people are facing.
During a visit to the DEC’s London offices, the duke told staff as they sat at their desks: “We were saying with the background of the cost-of-living crisis you’ve raised £300 million in eight weeks – that’s incredible.”
The couple chatted via a video call with senior aid workers from DEC member organizations who painted a grim picture of the situation in Ukraine.
Rachel Cummings, health lead for Save The Children who called in from a roadside cafe between Kyiv and Lviv, told the royals the “scale and complexity of the crisis is challenging”.
Speaking in person to a group of aid workers who had returned from the region William delivered the sobering assessment: “We need less disasters in the world”.
Saleh Saeed, DEC’s chief executive said after the visit: “They were very keen to hear how the appeal was going and thrilled to hear that we’d raise over £300 million and solidified in their minds the goodwill and the response and the generosity of the British public.”
He added the couple were so “enthused” after their visit they were “planning” on a second donation after giving to the appeal earlier in the year.
Mr Saeed said: “I think people have obviously been moved by what they’ve seen on the news and they want to help and people feel helpless in a way.
“The need inside Ukraine and surrounding countries is huge. So the £300 million is of course a huge amount of money and we’re very grateful for that, but we also have to remember there are other crises around the world.
“And whilst the focus remains on Ukraine for the moment, we still have an Afghanistan appeal open that’s raised £44 million, we’re worried about famine in the Horn of Africa, global hunger is on the rise and the World Bank today warned with soaring food prices millions could be pushed into poverty.”
William and Kate were given a private briefing about the DEC’s work when they first arrived at the headquarters near Islington.
The umbrella organization of 15 leading UK Aid charities has been supporting some of the seven million internally displaced Ukrainians and the five million who have fled the country following the Russian invasion.
The couple then joined a video call with three aid workers – Ms Cummings from Save The Children; Giuliano Stochino Weiss, emergency response lead for Hungarian Interchurch Aid, one of Christian Aid’s partners, who is in Lviv; and Alexander Matheou, International Federation Red Cross special representative to Ukraine, who is in Vinnitsa.
William asked the group: “I just want to find out a little bit about what the scene is like, what the situation is like out there…what you’re seeing at the moment and where things are at on the ground?”
Mr Stochino Weiss told them: “I crossed into Ukraine on the third day of the conflict, it’s been really heartbreaking to see mothers and fathers and children, fathers saying goodbye to their children because they had to leave the country.
“Lviv used to be a safe city, that changed on Monday with the huge rocket attacks 4km away from the office, so it’s an ever-changing situation and I would say it’s getting worse.”
Ms Cummings told William and Kate how she had been in Ukraine for around three weeks, traveling between Lviv and Kyiv and to Odessa: “There is huge population displacement and Save The Children are deeply concerned about the children who are being affected by this crisis.
“The numbers are staggering, around three-and-a-half million children are now refugees. It’s challenging for us to be able to support and scale up to that.”
The duke asked the group of senior aid workers: “We’ve been watching and hearing a lot about Mariupol and what’s been happening, which sounds like a truly horrendous situation. Do any of you have any idea of just how bad it is and have any of you been able to get any aid into there?”
Ms Cummings replied: “I met the deputy mayor of Mariupol who just told us some horrendous stories of people who have left and people who haven’t been able to leave.
“It’s a very challenging and very much a priority in the news, but Mariupol-plus is the challenge, because there are other areas within Ukraine which are maybe not as acutely affected but where people are in need.”