Today marks six months since Russia invaded Ukraine.
We've seen an outpour of solidarity and generosity from around the world for those affected. But the war continues to devastate people's lives – and the situation is getting direr as the fighting persists and winter approaches.
Since the start of the conflict on February 24, the United Nations (UN) has recorded close to 13,000 civilians killed or injured in Ukraine. Actual figures, the UN explains, might be higher as it has been challenging to get information from heavily hostile areas while some casualty reports are still being confirmed.
Due to damage or destruction, the country has lost vital infrastructure to provide water, transportation, healthcare, and education services. Consequently, the UN estimates that 17.7 million people – around 40 per cent of the population – require lifesaving humanitarian assistance.
On the other hand, millions have left Ukraine to find safety in neighbouring countries. It's estimated that over six million people have sought protection in Europe alone. Most who have fled are women, children and the elderly, as the Ukrainian government has barred men aged 18 to 60 from leaving the country.
The war's rippling effects are felt well beyond the region.
Global food insecurity is on the rise. Skyrocketing food prices are worsening famine-like conditions in Ethiopia, Kenya, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen. An energy crisis is threatening to push more people into poverty.
The Most Vulnerable People are the Hardest Hit
Fleeing for safety has been hard for elderly, sick, low-income or disabled people.
Women and girls face higher rates of gender-based violence, including sexual violence perpetrated by soldiers. Their access to healthcare and psychosocial support is limited.
Children, especially those travelling unaccompanied, are at risk of trafficking and exploitation.
People from different groups have faced barriers accessing shelter, food, information, and services like healthcare – due to discrimination, language barriers, legal constraints, or a lack of specialized services that fit their needs – including Roma people, LGBTQI+ refugees, third-country nationals, and people of colour.
As the War Grinds On, People Worry About the Future
The response of neighbouring countries to Ukrainian refugees has been inspiring, marking a turning point in European migration policy. This approach should be extended to refugees from other countries.
Many European Union (EU) countries, and other neighbouring states, like Moldova, swiftly passed laws allowing Ukrainians to live and work and access services like national healthcare systems. Similarly, volunteers and community groups at the grassroots level have helped refugees with housing and food.
But as the war drags on, Ukrainian refugees – and the communities that host and support them – are anxious about the future. Issues like inflation, staggering housing prices, and rising energy costs make hosts and refugees wonder if they can count on continued support and solidarity.
At the beginning of June, the Polish government ended a housing assistance scheme that provided roughly $10 dollars per day to people hosting Ukrainian refugees.
The uncertainty of the following months weighs heavy on refugees and those internally displaced in Ukraine. People worry about finding money to pay for food and medication, providing education for their children when the new school year starts in September, and keeping warm in the upcoming winter.
Local Organizations are Struggling
Local organizations and volunteers have been at the frontlines of this crisis, responding to needs from day one – few had any experience in humanitarian aid. Many volunteers, with work and family responsibilities of their own, can't sustain this substantial level of support indefinitely.
We need a structural approach to respond to this prolonged crisis.
Oxfam's partner organizations in the region have told us they'd like to see governments and the international community coordinate the response better and provide long-term solutions. Shaping this response should involve local organizations, volunteers, and affected communities. Women must be especially supported as they've shouldered most of the crisis response work.
Our Call for Solidarity
Oxfam calls for sustained solidarity with the people affected by the war as they begin to feel the impact of exhaustion, inflation, and the energy crisis. We also call on those involved in the response – in the first instance, national governments – to ensure that all people affected by the war, and those fleeing other crises, receive the protection and help they need. This requires attention to groups that have particular needs or face discrimination. It's equally crucial that host communities and civil society receive the assistance necessary for their generous contributions.
Finally, we call on donor communities to continue providing funding to the countries carrying the bulk of responsibility and costs for responding to this conflict. However, this support should not come at the expense of other international crises, as inequality, climate change and conflict are impacting unprecedented numbers of people, putting them at risk of deep poverty and violence.