the real figure is feared to be considerably higher and more casualties are expected.
Health facilities, water supplies, schools and other key infrastructure have been damaged or destroyed. Homes have been blown apart. Thousands have arrived at the country’s border crossings with Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova. Families have been separated and they travel with very little as they flee the fighting.
Vulnerable groups are caught in the conflict
Thirty percent of people caught up in the conflict are older than 60 years of age; the largest percentage of older persons affected by conflict in a single country. Older people face many challenges during crises such as this.
Escaping to safety, carrying heavy loads, and waiting in long queues can be nigh on impossible for some older people. They may be weaker, less mobile, living on their own or suffering a condition that people their age are
more susceptible to, such as coronary heart disease or dementia.
The current conflict is also having a significant impact on the lives of children, many of whom have had to flee fighting and see relatives drafted into military service. Some will have witnessed traumatic acts of violence or been caught up in shelling or air strikes. Schools have been occupied or damaged in the conflict and around 350,000 school-aged children currently have no access to education. Children will also be affected by a lack of access to nutritious food, clean water and safe, warm shelter. DEC charities are also concerned that children may be separated from their families or orphaned.
Women and girls are consistently disproportionately affected by conflict. The current conflict in Ukraine and resulting displacement is tearing families apart, leaving women alone and vulnerable or responsible for young children in a bid to find safety. Women are having to make tremendously difficult decisions: many feel the only alternative is to uproot children from their schools and homes and take them across borders while male family members stay behind to be conscripted. They may have to leave behind elderly parents who cannot, or do not want to leave. Of the 1.3 million people who have fled Ukraine, most are women, who may have walked for hours to cross the borders.
For those still in Ukraine, life is threatening. Women have been giving birth in underground metro stations as health facilities become inaccessible or too damaged to function. An estimated 80,000 women will give birth in the next three months in Ukraine, according to UNFPA5 – many of them without access to critical maternal health care. For some, childbirth will be a life-threatening rather than a life-changing experience.
But the aid effort is fully underway
DEC member charities including Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD and Save the Children are responding directly or through local partners in Ukraine; while others including CARE International, Christian Aid and
International Rescue Committee are working in neighbouring countries to help refugees fleeing across the borders. In total, 13 DEC members are already responding to this disaster or intending to.
The immediate and primary focus of the relief effort is to support internally displaced people and refugees fleeing the conflict. DEC charities will be supporting families with cash grants, food packages, warm clothing and shelter.
DEC charities will also focus on ensuring access to Water, Sanitation and Hygiene. They will be repairing vital water infrastructure; and setting up water points to provide sources of clean, readily available water for people who have been displaced from their homes. DEC charities will also support hospitals and other primary healthcare facilities with water, medicines and medical equipment; also providing trauma care and protection.
This is a rapidly changing crisis. Events in Ukraine and the resulting refugee movement into surrounding countries will inform the ongoing needs assessments and the DEC member charities’ response.
Spotlights: How DEC member charities are responding to the crisis
Due to the breadth of the DEC membership, we can effectively support a range of vulnerable groups. Age International are responding inside Ukraine through local partners and focusing their work on supporting older people (above 60); Save the Children are working inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries to help provide children and families with immediate aid, such as food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support and cash assistance.
Much of the humanitarian assistance will be delivered through local partners. CARE International has partnered with a local partner ‘People In Need’ to distribute urgently needed emergency supplies such as food, water, hygiene kits and cash to cover daily needs. World Vision are able to work through partners in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to help provide children and families searching for a safe haven with hygiene kits, protection and psychosocial support including child friendly spaces.
Other DEC member charities already have their own established networks in the region. British Red Cross is working with colleagues inside Ukraine who have been providing first aid, distributing food and hygiene parcels, helping evacuate people, restoring water points and other essential services. The Red Cross is also helping people fleeing the conflict in neighbouring countries.