In Ukraine, as in many other countries, we provide protection services. Christina Nisha, Protection Programme Advisor at INTERSOS, tells us what protection means



Protection. An emblematic term in humanitarian response actions, closely related to dignity, safety and rights of people affected by disasters and armed conflicts. For humanitarian organisations such as INTERSOS, protection consists of specific actions to overcome and prevent the exposure of people to physical and/or psychological harm that results from situations of violence or crisis. Protection means guaranteeing respect for the rights of each individual, access to legal assistance and overcoming the consequences of suffered abuse.


The protection sector, particularly among INTERSOS projects, has become increasingly crucial in recent years, due to protracted humanitarian crises. According to internal statistics, INTERSOS ended 2021 with 156 total protection projects, of which 87 have been completed and 69 are still ongoing. Protection activities are carried out by professionals such as psychologists, social workers, legal advisors, mediators, etc.


“The people targeted by our protection interventions are mainly children, women survivors of gender-based violence and people with special needs, Christina Nisha, Protection Programme Adviser at INTERSOS, says. The number of girls and boys involved in our protection activities in 2021 is about 25,000. These are children who have grown up knowing nothing but war and conflict, living with the constant possibility of having their rights denied.


Gender-based violence is a widespread phenomenon in conflict contexts. During 2021, we documented more than 13,000 cases of women survivors of gender-based violence. There are also many cases of people with disabilities suffering sexual violence. In addition, there are also several difficulties in escaping the atrocities of conflict and accessing basic services.


Intervening in humanitarian crises


“We mainly intervene in two different types of contexts, emergency response and community strengthening”, Christina Nisha says talking about INTERSOS’ protection activities. “We work to respond the needs that arise from crises, we are there, in those territories, to support people living in emergency contexts. A humanitarian response involving protection operations offers support and relief to those who have been exposed to physical or psychological harm or human rights violations, but also allows us to intervene to reduce the risks of these violations occurring. This is what we do in protection interventions in emergency situations. In those communities experiencing so-called protracted crises, people who have been displaced, or who are returning to their areas of origin because the situation has stabilised, the aim of protection interventions is to help communities create a protected environment where people can feel safe and build their own systems and structures to protect themselves”, Nisha concludes.


The protection provided by INTERSOS focuses on an individual response plan, through the analysis and subsequent case management, and on a collective plan as well. “The aim is to help people to recover from their trauma and abuse. At the community level, we run programmes to raise awareness of the principles of protection and create what we call “safe spaces” for children, but also for women and girls: safe environments where they can share their problems and discuss with other people. In these contexts, we also provide professional training for women”, Nisha concludes.


Despite the cultural, religious, social and gender barriers that our staff face in implementing protection projects, which sometimes make the implementation and carrying out of activities particularly risky, the aim is to contribute to the creation of an environment in which the rights of individuals are respected, “Which allows people to take care of themselves even after INTERSOS has left”.