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Over the last two weeks, each of us has watched, with a deep sadness, the events unfolding in UkraineBut in my role, I’m often reminded that when confronted with the very worst of situations, it can bring out the best in people. Since the crisis began, my phone has rung off the hook and my inbox has been filled with colleagues, customers and suppliers asking one simple question “How can we help?”

My job is to mobilise the M&S response and our priority was to act with pace and make a difference to those most in need. Funding was, and remains, the most urgent requirement for the majority of the charities operating on the ground and we moved quickly to support UNICEF UK’s Ukraine Appeal with a corporate donation and pledged to double donations from customers who selected UNICEF UK as their Sparks charity. 

However, with the conflict and humanitarian crisis escalating, it was clear that we needed to do more. That’s why, last week, we announced a new £1.5m support package to help the families and children of Ukraine. 

This included a kick-start donation of £500,000 to UK for UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency and £500,000 worth of products urgently needed on the ground, which will be distributed by UNHCR. 

To help colleagues and customers show their support too, we launched till point and online giving and we allocated £500,000 to match colleague fundraising and ongoing Sparks double donations.

The response to date has been overwhelming, with £1.1million donated by customers - taking the total support made via M&S to £2.6m. I know I can speak for our charity partners when say a MASSIVE thank you to everyone across the M&S family who have supported. 

With more than 2.5 million people having now fled Ukraine, and the numbers are expected to climb further. The UN Refugee Agency and UNICEF are working round the clock to keep people safe - and your support has really started to make a difference to their teams on the ground. 

On 5th March, the first batch of UNICEF humanitarian supplies arrived in Lviv, western Ukraine. This is part of a six-truck convoy containing an estimated 62 tonnes of supplies on its way, which include desperately needed items such as medicine, first-aid and midwifery kits, and early childhood and recreational kits. 

Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine said: “The situation for families in Ukraine is increasingly desperate and these supplies will provide much needed support to health care workers, women and children. Since the conflict escalated, families have been sheltering underground, cut off from basic services. Hospitals and maternity wards have moved their patients to basements and across the country, hundreds of thousands are without safe drinking water due to infrastructure damage.”

As the crisis intensifies, UNICEF and UNHCR are preparing to deploy humanitarian assistance to the hardest hit areas and are working together, with a large number of partners to scale their operations to meet the urgent needs of the many people crossing into neighbouring countries. 

Across the entire M&S family, we want to do everything we can to help the families and children of Ukraine. We know when we work together, we can make a difference and we’re starting to see that now. 

You can read more about the work of our partners by visiting (https://www.unicef.org.uk/donate/donate-now-to-protect-children-in-ukraine/) and (www.unrefugees.org.uk/ukraine-emergency).