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WRC Marks One-Year Anniversary of Russian Invasion of Ukraine

Calls on USG, humanitarian community to prioritize the needs of women, children, and other marginalized populations

Washington, D.C. – As the world marks the one-year anniversary of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, more than 6 million people remain displaced, 90% of whom are women and children. More than 17.6 million people will need humanitarian assistance this year.

Despite humanitarian response efforts by local service providers, international aid organizations, and governments in the region where refugees are being hosted, large gaps remain in addressing the needs of women, children, and other marginalized groups. Barriers remain to lifesaving services and programs, including sexual and reproductive health care, gender-based violence (GBV) prevention and response, and protection for unaccompanied minors. People with disabilities and LGBTQI+ individuals are also experiencing discrimination and barriers to access the humanitarian services and support they need.

In response to today’s anniversary, and the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine, Gayatri Patel, vice president of advocacy and external relations at the Women’s Refugee Commission, issued the following statement:

“The experiences of those displaced from and within Ukraine have underscored yet again the distinct and disturbing impact of crises on women, children, people with disabilities, older people, ethnic minorities, LGBTQI+ individuals, and others. The crisis has galvanized tremendous support for those displaced from their homes or otherwise in humanitarian need, and we commend the governments, international organizations, and civil society groups that stepped up to assist. However, we are deeply concerned about persistent issues that stand in the way of meeting the needs of women, children, and others disproportionately affected during this crisis. These groups face heightened risks to their safety that require dedicated attention and resources to address. These concerns are not new – local organizations, international NGOs, including WRC, and affected women themselves have been sounding the alarm on these issues throughout the last year. We must listen and act.

“We call on the entire humanitarian community – including governments, international organizations, humanitarian service providers, donors, and others involved in the humanitarian response – to not allow the needs, rights, and protection of the most marginalized to fall through the cracks. Specifically, we urge humanitarian actors to:

  1. Ensure the registration and protection of unaccompanied minors and other at-risk youth, including in national health and child protection systems, so that they are protected from GBV, conflict-related sexual violence (CRSV), trafficking, and exploitation; have access to quality care and services; and can regain access to education and other opportunities.
  2. Increase the availability and accessibility of quality mental health and psychosocial support services (MHPSS) for those experiencing trauma, particularly children and GBV survivors.
  3. Urgently prioritize GBV and CRSV risk mitigation, including in the provision of cash assistance, shelter, and livelihoods support, and close gaps in access to basic services, such as food assistance, that create vulnerabilities to sexual exploitation and abuse.
  4. Prioritize access to the full range of sexual and reproductive health services for all in need of them, including by supporting local advocacy efforts to eliminate legal and policy barriers to comprehensive sexual and reproductive health care.
  5. Invest in programs that build the self-sufficiency and reduce the vulnerability of women, girls, and others to harm, such as cash and voucher assistance for GBV survivors and those at risk and safe spaces for women and girls.

“Fundamentally, the humanitarian community must recognize and embrace the capacity and skills of displaced women, youth, and others. Refugees – in all their diversity – must be included in the design of response actions. Women’s rights organizations and refugee-led organizations must be consulted in local humanitarian response plans. Refugees and other displaced people are inherently self-reliant, they know what is needed, and they must be part of resource allocation efforts. We all must listen and heed the calls of those on the front lines and most at risk in Ukraine.”


Learn more about WRC’s work on the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine.