More than one million people arrive in neighbouring countries after escaping conflict and violence in Ukraine, ActionAid is preparing to provide emergency support and protection for those forced to flee.
Refugees are crossing the borders into countries including Poland, Romania, Hungary and Moldova fleeing heavy fighting, shelling and airstrikes, which are destroying homes and disrupting vital services including healthcare and water supplies.
Most of those arriving in search of safety are women and children, who are most at risk during conflicts and emergencies as cases of gender-based violence and exploitation soar.
With UN estimates that up to five million people may be forced to leave Ukraine due to the Russian invasion, it is set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century.
Cristina Muñoz, Country Director of ActionAid Spain (Alianza por la Solidaridad), which will be working through local partners to support families arriving from Ukraine, says:
“We stand in solidarity with the people of Ukraine and all those forced to flee the violence. “As a feminist organisation, working with women and young people, we are also extremely concerned about the impact the conflict will have on women and girls, who face increased risk of sexual and gender-based violence during emergencies.
“Civilians are being killed and injured. Lives are being torn apart with devastating consequences. Those escaping the conflict are arriving in neighbouring countries with very little after walking for days in search of safety. They must all be guaranteed protection and access to humanitarian support.”
Urgent needs include food, water, shelter, hygiene and dignity kits, as well as protection services, psychosocial support and safe spaces to prevent gender-based violence.
ActionAid is deeply concerned by increasing media reports of racism against black people and people of colour in Ukraine who are being refused access to relief, aid and the right to cross the border to safety.
We are working to ensure that the needs of all people escaping conflict in Ukraine are met and that they receive equal support and protection.
All those who flee a conflict situation have the same right to safe passage under the UN Convention and we urge all countries to respect international law and humanitarian principles.
Through working with local partners and allies, ActionAid’s response will be focused on providing immediate humanitarian relief, preventing gender-based violence, providing psychosocial counselling support and strengthening the leadership of women and young people in crisis.