After over six months of fighting, there is no end in sight for the war in Ukraine. Millions of civilians are unable to return home. Many still in the country are forced to live without access to food, water, healthcare, and other essential supplies.

This is not an isolated crisis - blockades of Ukrainian grain exports have worsened hunger in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. Even as international efforts have helped to resume grain shipments, the situation remains dire. In East Africa, for instance, a perfect storm of continued drought, the blockade, and the economic fallout from the war is causing mass starvation. Without urgent international funding, 3 million people in the region could lose their lives. 

Get the facts on how the war in Ukraine is impacting both Ukrainians and people around the globe.

What is life like inside Ukraine?

The continued conflict in Ukraine is causing extreme civilian harm and leaving millions without access to food, water and other essential supplies. Innocent civilians have been cruelly caught up in the conflict, with over 13,000 casualties since 24 February, including over 5,500 killed

There has been catastrophic damage to civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools. In eastern Ukraine, where the fighting is the heaviest, many places are without power and with limited access to food, water and health services. 

As people continue to flee their homes to seek safety, over 6 million people are internally displaced within the country.

8-year-old Maxim* and his family stayed in Ukraine for as long as they could so that his 4-year-old sister with special needs could continue her treatment. But when her hospital started getting overwhelmed with casualties from the conflict, her doctor told them to flee to Poland where there was a hospital that could help them. Now safe in Poland, they hope for the day they can return home and rebuild their lives.
Maxim’s family stayed in Ukraine as long as they could so that his little sister with special needs could continue her treatment. The family was forced to flee as their hospital became overwhelmed with casualities from the war.
Photo: Andrew Oberstadt for the IRC

Fighting near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant

Of particular worry for world leaders recently has been fighting near the Ukrainian Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, which is currently controlled by Russian forces. Zaporizhzhia is Europe’s biggest nuclear facility and recent attacks on the nearby city of Nikopol have raised concerns over the potential for the war to damage the nuclear power plant. A malfunction at Zaporizhzhia could lead to the release of radiation, affecting large portions of Europe.

What is life like for those displaced by the war in Ukraine?

The war in Ukraine has created the fastest displacement crisis in Europe since World War II. The majority of those displaced are women and children, who are always most at risk of exploitation and abuse during crises.

How many Ukrainian refugees are there?

As of 22 August 2022, there are over 6.6 million refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe.

Where have most Ukrainian refugees found protection?

Ukrainian refugees are predominantly finding safety in neighbouring countries. Poland has granted protection to over 1.2 million Ukrainian refugees while other nearby countries Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova have each given safety to tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees. 

Two sisters stand together in a parklng lot. Each sister has her own two kids with her.
Marta* and Oksana* are two sisters from Ukraine. When the war broke out they fled together with their children and one small bag to Poland. The sisters are grateful for the assistance provided by volunteers who are welcoming refugees.
Photo: Andrew Oberstadt for the IRC

What is life like for Ukrainian women and children fleeing the conflict?

The majority of people displaced by the conflict are women and children; two groups that are always most at risk of exploitation and abuse during crises. In crisis settings, existing gender inequality is exacerbated while instances of gender-based violence increase. 

Women forced to flee their homes also often struggle to access critical reproductive healthcare and pre and post-natal care, as these types of care are often limited in crisis situations. 

Children forced to flee Ukraine have their lives uprooted, education interrupted and are in some cases even separated from their families.

One mother’s story about fleeing Ukraine with her children

A mom stands with her young daughter and a dog beside them
Maria waits for transportation with her daughter, Daryna, and their dog, Tyson. “It was time to leave. I was also concerned about my child. I wanted her to stay alive, that no bombs would fall on us." said Maria.
Photo: Andrew Oberstadt for the IRC

How does the war in Ukraine affect the rest of the world?

The war in Ukraine has an obvious impact on those displaced by conflict. The war also continues to have a major effect on the global markets and food supply. Ukraine’s inability to export grain throughout the first five months of the conflict worsened a global hunger crisis, with catastrophic impacts throughout the world.

Why is Ukraine grain so important?

Ukraine is historically a large exporter of grain. In 2021, Ukrainian grain fed 400 million people around the world. For the first 5 months of the war, Ukraine was unable to export its grain through its primary shipping routes through the Black Sea. 

Countries reliant on this grain suffered as a consequence. Several grain-receiving countries across the Middle East and Africa were already experiencing hunger crises due to conflict and climate change. The war in Ukraine made these hunger crises worse.

What countries are impacted by the war in Ukraine?

The global repercussions of the war have had catastrophic impacts on countries already facing conflict and crises. 

“Six months of war has taken a terrible toll—not just on Ukrainian civilians but civilians worldwide,” said IRC President and CEO, David Miliband. “IRC’s clients are dealing with the devastating global repercussions—from East Africa to the Sahel to the Middle East to Central America.” 

An IRC doctor treats a one year old girl who sits on her mother's lap
Dr. Sila, an IRC health manager, screens 1 year old Vanessa for signs of malnutrition at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. The war in Ukraine has contributed to increasing rates of malnutrition in Kenya by limiting food supplies.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt for the IRC

East Africa is facing a looming famine, as a severe drought hits the region alongside the disruption in food supply caused by the war in Ukraine. Over 14 million people across Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya are already on the verge of starvation—about half of them children. That number could rise to 20 million if the world fails to take urgent action.

The Sahel region of Africa is experiencing its highest levels of severe food insecurity since 2014. Up to 18 million people are experiencing severe hunger.

In the Middle East, the war in Ukraine has sent prices of wheat and fuel spiraling. Syrian refugees are among the hardest hit, as many do not have the incomes to cover the dramatically increased cost of living.

A mother and her two children sit around a plate of herbs, working with them in some capacity
Swasan* is the main breadwinner of her family, displaced from their home in Aleppo, Syria. Rising food prices have made it harder for Swasan to provide enough food for her family.
Photo: Abdullah Hammam

In Central America, prices for staple foods like white maize are well above the five-year average. Together with climate change and ongoing insecurity, nearly 13 million people across the region face growing hunger.

What is the Ukraine grain deal?

Earlier this month, Ukraine and Russia entered into separate deals which paved the way for Ukraine to resume its grains export. The IRC welcomed the announcement that the first grain shipment under the Ukrainian grain deal left the Port of Odessa in early August. This represents an important first step to easing the pressure of hunger crises in many grain-receiving states.  

The IRC's Ukraine country director Marysia Zapasnik said:

“This is the first of many lifelines needed to ease the global food crisis and help the millions of people at risk of starving around the world. The international community must ensure regular and predictable food shipments urgently reach those on the brink of starvation and that Ukraine’s farmers are able to safely grow and transport crops to the ports”.

What needs to happen now?

An immediate end to violence in Ukraine is needed to preserve human life and dignity. World leaders must ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld and that humanitarian actors are protected and maintain access to help those in need.

Ukrainian refugees gather at Medyka border crossing point, Poland
Ukrainian refugees gather at Medyka border crossing point, Poland.
Photo: Francesco Pistilli for the IRC

The world must also continue to support both the people who fled Ukraine and the millions of refugees and displaced people worldwide. While there has rightly been an outpouring of global support for people fleeing Ukraine, equal empathy must be shown for refugees and displaced people in many other crises around the world including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Syria.

To address the hunger crises hitting East Africa and other regions, donors should urgently channel funding to frontline responders who can reach those most in need and deliver the health programming, food and cash assistance, and clean water that people need to survive.

What is the IRC doing to help?

Our work in Ukraine 

In Ukraine, we are focusing our assistance in the areas most heavily affected by the conflict. Together with our local partners:

  1. We are providing timely cash support to vulnerable families to enable them to cover their most basic needs;
  2. We are distributing essential items such as bedding, soap, shampoo, toothpaste, diapers and other hygiene related items to newly displaced families as they flee areas of heavy fighting;
  3. We are providing essential protection services, including the setting up of Safe Healing and Learning Spaces for children, gender-based violence and women protection services and legal assistance for people who have lost their documents or need new documents such as death and birth certificates;
  4. We are supporting overwhelmed health facilities with much needed supplies and refresher training on conflict related injuries. 

In addition to that, we are urgently preparing for our winter response. In areas most heavily affected by the conflict, especially in the east, temperatures are expected to drop to well below freezing in the winter months. In many of these areas there will be limited or no access to electricity or gas for heating. Together with our partners, we are identifying communities most in need and planning how we can best respond.

Our work in Poland

The IRC is also on the ground in Poland working with five local organisations to meet the needs of families displaced from Ukraine, many of whom are staying in shelters across the country. Working with partners allows us to bolster the crisis response of people who have already been active in the community and are experts on the local context. 

  1. With the Polish Red Cross, we are providing bedding, toiletries, mental health support and other emergency assistance to people arriving at border crossings or continuing their journeys into Poland from relocation points.
  2. The IRC and the Polish Centre for International Aid (PCPM) are delivering cash support to families living in cities including Lublin, Gdańsk, Łódź, and Poznań, to ensure they can buy food, medicine, clothing and other essentials.
  3. We are working with our partner Norma to set up Safe Healing and Learning Spaces across nine shelters in Warsaw, which will provide families, and children in particular, the space they need to recover from the trauma they have endured.
  4. With PCPM, we are connecting Ukrainian teachers with jobs in Poland and delivering cash support to ensure their salaries. This approach means that teachers can work flexibly and teach in schools where Ukrainian language skills are most needed.  
  5. We are working to help children who arrived as refugees integrate into Polish classrooms, providing cultural assistants and other support.
  6. With our partner Migam we are providing sign language translation to support access to services for refugees with special needs.
  7. A new grant by Google.org and a Google.org Fellowship team will help the IRC support United for Ukraine, an information portal and civil society effort that helps displaced people find access to critical services. The initiative will be part of the IRC’s Signpost Project, a global humanitarian technology programme operating in 15 countries that helps refugees find resources to meet their urgent needs.

Learn more about the IRC's emergency response in Ukraine and Poland.

How can I help Ukraine?

Donate now: Your gift will help us provide food, medical care and emergency support services to families whose lives are shattered by conflict and crises around the world. 

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