The Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine

What Is the Current Situation for Ukrainian Women and Girls?

As of February 2023, the conflict in Ukraine has displaced more than 14 million people since the latest Russian invasion began in February 2022. More than 8 million Ukrainians are now refugees, having fled to neighboring countries and beyond, including fleeing to the United States. Almost 5 million people are forcibly displaced within Ukraine itself. The International Organization for Migration (IOM) estimates 5.5 million people have returned to Ukraine as of February 2023 following a period of displacement due to the conflict.

Among those Ukrainian refugees or people otherwise in need of humanitarian aid, the Women’s Refugee Commission is particularly concerned about the impact of the Ukrainian crisis on women, adolescent girls, children, and other marginalized populations. According to IOM, more than half of the internally displaced people are women; many displaced Ukrainian women are particularly vulnerable because they are pregnant or have small children, have a disability, or are a victim of violence.

WRC’s Priorities on the Ukrainian Humanitarian Crisis

Among those Ukrainian refugees, internally displaced, or otherwise in need of humanitarian aid due to the conflict in Ukraine, WRC is particularly concerned about the situation for Ukrainian women, adolescent girls, children, and other marginalized populations. This includes 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 gender-based violence (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 Assistance

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

Ukrainian 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.

How to Help Ukrainian Refugee Women and Girls

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.

Our Advocacy on the Ukraine Crisis

WRC is committed to ensuring the needs and rights of those displaced by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine are protected. Below is a list of WRC’s advocacy work related to the Ukraine conflict.

Inequity at the US-Mexico Border: Ukrainians Seeking Safety and Implications for US Asylum Processing

This backgrounder covers how processing took place in the weeks following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022 when more than 20,000 Ukrainians sought protection at the US-Mexico border. It also describes how the Biden administration has used parole programs as a replacement for access to asylum.

Letter to US Administration on the Needs of Persons with Disabilities and Older People

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.

Factsheet on the Cash for Protection Taskforce in Ukraine & Neighbouring Countries

This factsheet on the Cash for Protection Taskforce in Ukraine and Neighbouring Countries was produced bi-weekly in early 2022 for Protection and Cash and Voucher Assistance (CVA) specialists who are considering, planning for, or already using cash and voucher assistance integrated into protection programming to support protection outcomes for individuals and households inside and outside of Ukraine.

In The Economist Op-Ed, Chairman Menendez Says the Work of Helping Ukraine Has Only Just Begun

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.

WRC Policy Brief on Ukraine

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.

Supporting Ukrainian Women Activists Through the Women’s Peace and Humanitarian Fund

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.

WRC Media on the Ukraine Crisis

The news media across the world have featured WRC’s research and staff expertise on the impact of the Ukraine crisis on refugees.

Disabled People in Ukraine At Risk of Being Abandoned and Forgotten

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 Ukraine

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.”