As of December 2022, the conflict in Ukraine has displaced more than 14 million people since the latest military offensive began in February 2022. More than 7.9 million people have fled to neighboring countries and beyond, including fleeing to the US. Almost 7 million people are forcibly displaced within Ukraine itself.
Among those displaced or in need of humanitarian aid, the Women’s Refugee Commission is particularly concerned about the situation for women, adolescent girls, children, and other marginalized populations. The IOM estimates that more than half of the internally displaced people are women; many are particularly vulnerable because they are pregnant or have small children, have a disability, or are a victim of violence.
Among those displaced or in need of humanitarian aid due to the conflict, WRC is particularly concerned about the situation for women, adolescent girls, children, and other marginalized populations such as people with disabilities, older people, LGBTQI+ individuals, the Roma community, and third-country nationals. Their unique needs in emergencies demand urgent responses, particularly to prevent and respond to gender-based violence, including trafficking; meet critical health care needs, including sexual and reproductive health care; and uphold their human rights.
Gender-Based Violence (GBV)
Displaced women, girls, those with disabilities, and unaccompanied and separated children are at high risk of GBV. This includes human trafficking and sexual exploitation and abuse within Ukraine, en route as they flee, and once they cross borders.
Sexual and Reproductive Health and Rights (SRHR)
Women and girls fleeing their homes in Ukraine, including adolescent girls, older women, and those with disabilities, are facing critical unmet health needs and barriers, especially as vital health infrastructure is being destroyed. The UN Population Fund (UNFPA) estimates that 265,000 people were pregnant at the start of the crisis, and anticipated that 80,000 women would give birth in the first three months of the crisis.
Mental Health and Psychological Impacts
Psychosocial assistance is urgently needed to cope with GBV, family separation, and the trauma of violence and displacement. This especially impacts children, including those who have been separated from their families.
Cash and voucher assistance (CVA) provides emergency support to refugees to buy their own supplies and access services to meet urgent needs (food, shelter, health, etc.) directly. These CVA programs must address women’s and girls’ protection concerns and must prevent any unintended consequence of CVA that may expose women and girls to GBV because of gender norms around control of resources.
Needs of Marginalized Groups
Women and girls from marginalized groups, for example, people with disabilities, older people, the Roma community, and LGBTQI+ individuals, are facing discrimination and other barriers to needed services. Humanitarian responders should ensure that services accommodate the unique needs of the displaced population to provide essential support.
Women’s Leadership and Participation
Humanitarian activities should prioritize engaging affected women in all their diversity in the design, implementation, monitoring, and evaluation of humanitarian aid programs.
We need your voice as we work to identify ways to help Ukrainian displaced women and girls. Send a tweet to encourage your community to join you in standing with the Women’s Refugee Commission.
WRC joined 74 civil society organizations to advocate inclusion of persons with disabilities and older people in the humanitarian response to the conflict in Ukraine. This letter, addressed to senior human rights and humanitarian officials within the US State Department and US Agency for International Development, called on the US to support specific measures to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches these populations who face unique barriers and challenges.
From the onset of the crisis, WRC advocated for the US Congress to ensure that the global response to the Ukraine conflict, including humanitarian aid programs, address the needs of affected women and girls. This press release and op-ed by Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, reflect WRC’s direct advocacy.
This policy brief outlines the Women’s Refugee Commission’s key concerns for women, girls, and other marginalized people displaced by the conflict in Ukraine and lays out our recommendations for policy and programming.
The Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund (WPHF), a partnership to support the work of women on the frontlines of humanitarian crises, conflicts, and peacebuilding initiatives around the world, provided funding to local civil society organizations and women activists in Ukraine and Moldova. These groups are providing humanitarian assistance and protection to those displaced or affected by the conflict in Ukraine. WRC, as a member of the board of the WPHF, along with key donor governments and select civil society organizations, endorses and amplifies the work of these women activists.
This fact sheet collates key updates, findings, and resources on the use of cash for protection in the Ukraine humanitarian response. It is produced by the Global Protection Task Team on Cash for Protection, which is co-chaired by WRC.
The findings by WRC showed that children with disabilities are at risk of abandonment and violence during emergency situations, and yet their particular needs are often not taken into account in aid efforts.
Women’s Refugee Commission Warns of Loss of Life and Human Suffering Due to Russian Aggression in UkraineFebruary 22, 2022
WRC issued a statement “urg[ing] the delivery of much-needed humanitarian assistance that is sensitive to the age, gender, and disability of affected populations. It must ensure women, girls, children, and persons with disabilities are not left behind.” It also called on the international community to “ensur[e] the full, equal, and meaningful participation of women peacebuilders and women human rights defenders.”