Humanitarian Crisis in Ukraine
The conflict in Ukraine has displaced more than 15 million people since the latest military offensive by the Russian Federation began in February 2022; 7.4 million people have fled to countries in the region and 7 million people are forcibly displaced within Ukraine itself.* Most of the displaced are women and children. As hostilities continue, the impact on civilians remains alarming, including damage to civilian infrastructure such as hospitals and schools, and the breakdown of vital services such as electricity and water.
*Number updated weekly.
What the Women’s Refugee Commission is doing
- WRC’s advocacy is influencing donors and program implementers to prioritize our key recommendations and provide funding to grassroots organizations, including those that provide services or advocate for the rights of women, youth, people with disabilities, internally displaced or stateless people, refugees, LGBTQI+ individuals, and other marginalized groups.
- WRC is using its expertise, research, and tools, such as on cash and voucher assistance, to provide guidance to UN stakeholders, international organizations, member states, donors, and other policymakers and program implementers.
Our key priorities
Among those displaced or in need of humanitarian aid due to the conflict, the 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 Ukrainian 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)
Ukrainian women and girls, 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. UNFPA estimates that 250,000 people were pregnant at the start of the crisis, and that 80,000 women will give birth in the next three months.
Deep trauma 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, provide emergency support to refugees so they can buy their own supplies and access services (that are often not available for free) to meet urgent needs (food, shelter, health, etc.) directly. These programs must include addressing 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, the Roma community, older people, people with disabilities, women in rural communities, and LGBTQI+ individuals, should not be forgotten in the humanitarian response.
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.
Our key recommendations
- Urgently ensure appropriate protection measures, including child protection, at borders, reception areas, and inside Ukraine.
- Prioritize GBV prevention and response.
- Ensure women and girls can safely access the full spectrum of health services, including the full range of SRHR.
- Prevent sexual exploitation and abuse.
- Support cash and voucher assistance programs so that displaced people can directly meet their immediate needs, such as food and basic household supplies.
- Optimize opportunities for women, girls, and other marginalized groups to fully, equally, and meaningfully participate in humanitarian responses.
- Support the efforts of local organizations, particularly those led by or focused on women, youth, and refugees.
- Use gender and social inclusion assessments across sectors to respond to the ongoing needs of women, girls, and other marginalized groups effectively.
Read our Ukraine policy brief for details of our priorities and recommendations.
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.”
In the News
March 7, 2022
The findings by the Women’s Refugee Commission 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.
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.
This Factsheet collates key updates, findings, and resources on the use of cash for protection in the Ukraine humanitarian response. Produced by the Global Protection Task Team on Cash for Protection, which is co-chaired by WRC.
The SEREDA Project, on which WRC is an advisor, seeks to understand the incidence and nature of sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) experienced by women, men and child refugees who fled conflict in the Levant Region. It has implications for understanding SGBV in all conflict settings.