Former CNN reporter Arwa Damon on the war in Ukraine one year later and the need for aid in Turkey and Syria

Former CNN reporter, Arwa Damon, near the Ukraine-Poland border in 2022.

(CNN)Arwa Damon is an award-winning journalist and CNN's former Senior International Correspondent. After 18 years reporting from the world's hotspots, she left the network last year to focus on the non-profit she founded: International Network for Aid, Relief and Assistance (INARA). Her group helps people suffering from wars and disasters. Recently, Arwa spoke to CNN from the INARA office in Turkey as the organization provides help in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. She discussed the things she saw while reporting on the war in Ukraine, the aid that is still needed one year later, why she founded INARA and what she is currently seeing (and not seeing) in the global response to the earthquake in Turkey and Syria.

This conversation has been edited and condensed for clarity.
The war in Ukraine is about to hit the one-year mark. Can you tell us about what you saw and experienced while reporting there?
      "I was on the Ukraine-Poland border. I think what struck me most, I remember standing there very distinctly, watching these Ukrainian families coming across the border. It was a scene that I'd seen so many times before, exhausted mothers dragging along children who are barely able to put one step in front of the other. The constant click, click, click of the wheel spinning around on the little suitcases that they're carrying. Then these faces with these almost blank expressions of just shock and exhaustion. As I was watching this in real time, my mind just superimposed on top of it all the other images I'd seen from other war zones, from Syria and from Iraq, and it was the same exact image. And then I was struck by the difference though, because when those Ukrainian families got across the border, there were piles of clothes waiting for them. There were warm cups of tea, there were buses lined up to take them somewhere. There were volunteers with signs offering rides, and part of me was so heartened and warm to see this outpouring of support and part of me was so devastated that same outpouring of support was not afforded to other populations."
        "The way people responded to Ukraine is the way that we should be responding to people in crisis. That should be our standard. That should be the norm."
          What kind of support has INARA provided to those who have been impacted by the war in Ukraine within the last year?
          "We focused a lot on mental health. One of the first projects that we did was kind of recognizing that with all of these volunteers on the ground, with all of these frontline individuals that existed out there - there's a bit of sensitivity when it comes to dealing with people that have just been through the trauma of war, especially children. There are certain basic do's and don'ts that aren't necessarily obvious. We have a wealth of experience dealing with pediatric trauma unfortunately. So one of the first things we did was tried to get information out to those frontline workers who were offering training or distributing brochures in different languages just to make sure that they were aware of the basics needed, in terms of dealing with children that have been greatly traumatized. Also --and this is pretty important-- differentiating between what is a normal traumatic response and what are some key indicators that there is going to be a potentially deeper underlying longer lasting problem."
          "INARA's main kind of baseline for these types of interventions is, 'what are the gaps?' We know, from our own experience, that the main gap we end up filling is not at the beginning of the crisis or the war. We know that those gaps, that we end up filling, emerge when the media spotlight moves away when the funding has dried up and when the NGOs are not present on the ground."
          "We're building a safe space in partnership with an organization from Mariupol. They specifically highlighted a problem where a lot of those families that have fled from Mariupol, they were female-led households. The men had stayed behind; they were either fighting or volunteering or had had been killed. And the mothers needed a safe place to be able to leave their children so that they could go find work. What we've done, and what we're still doing is building these safe spaces that both act as areas where the children can get social support, mental health support, but also where the parents can just leave their kids for a longer duration of time."
          As the war closes in on the one-year mark, has INARA's work increased?
          "The work itself has picked up, but again, what we know is that our work, specifically as INARA, is going to pick up even more down the line. We're still going to be there when everybody else leaves. That's just the way that we operate. That's who we are. That's our DNA. We stay. We'll keep filling in the gaps."
          "Definitely our work is going to pick up in Ukraine."
          For ways to provide humanitarian aid to Ukraine, you can contribute to Impact Your World's campaign here.
          What's INARA's overall focus and mission?
          "The whole concept and premise for INARA is very much based on my own personal experience reporting for CNN from the war zones for well over a decade and a half. Constantly coming across children who needed medical treatment, but they were unable to access it. That is, generally speaking, for one of two reasons: One is that the parents don't know that certain organizations are actually providing the treatment that their child needs. The other is because no organization is providing what the child needs. INARA was specifically built to fill in those gaps and create that network for the families so that we end up connecting the donors, whether it's individual or larger donors, to the family - to the treatment. We do this through our caseworkers, and we do this through the whole program that we've built."
          Arwa and Youssif
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