Ukraine two years on: This war cannot become another forgotten crisis

As we mark 2 years of war in Ukraine, our CEO Emma Cherniavksy reflects on how the need for support for those displaced by the war remains as critical as ever. 


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Svitlana speaks to a staff member from Ukrainian NGO Proliska in Dnipro, January 2024 © UNHCR/Iryna Tymchyshyn

The ongoing war in Ukraine has resulted in forced displacement and humanitarian needs not witnessed in Europe in decades.

The numbers tell a heartbreaking story. 10.5 million people have been forced from their homes, of whom 6.5 million have sought refuge in neighbouring countries and 3.7 million are internally displaced in Ukraine. UNHCR estimates that more than 14 million Ukrainians are in need of humanitarian assistance.

Among the displaced, 62 per cent are women and girls, and 36 per cent are children, highlighting the heightened risk of gender-based violence and the vulnerability of the youngest victims of this conflict.

As we mark the second anniversary of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, missile attacks and military action are escalating in areas such as Kharkiv and Zaporizhzhia. Civilians are bearing the brunt of the violence, with vital infrastructure and homes being decimated by relentless attacks. Schools, hospitals, and homes have been destroyed, leaving people without the necessities they need to survive.

Families who managed to escape and seek safety in neighbouring countries continue to face further challenges.

The future of a generation in jeopardy 

People with disabilities, those with serious medical conditions, and others with specific needs who have fled Ukraine, are facing increasing challenges and hardship.

Children are missing out on education, jeopardising the future of a generation. Only half of school-age refugee children and youth from Ukraine were enrolled in schools in host countries at the start of the 2023-2024 school year.

Additionally, 30 per cent of households reported at least one member experiencing mental health or psychosocial problems, underscoring the urgent need for comprehensive support services.

We are worried that many refugees are falling through the cracks. The initial outpouring of solidarity for Ukraine was extraordinary, but two years on, the need for support for those displaced by the war remains as critical as ever.

In these challenging times, I am continually inspired by the unwavering resilience and bravery exhibited by so many Ukrainians. People who have dedicated themselves to helping those in need, day after day, by providing humanitarian assistance, shelter, counselling and support. Often, this work takes place in difficult and dangerous conditions, without respite.

UNHCR partners respond swiftly to the urgent needs of affected families

One such individual is Svitlana, one of the survivors of the devastating missile attack in Dnipro on December 29, 2023.

Svitlana’s apartment was impacted by the attack, resulting in the loss of six lives and injuries to 20 others. The strike caused widespread destruction, damaging private houses, multi-storey buildings, administrative structures, and even a maternity hospital.

In the aftermath of the attack, UNHCR partner Proliska responded swiftly to the urgent needs of affected families like Svitlana’s. They provided essential support, including tarpaulins to cover damaged windows, emergency shelter kits to ensure warmth and safety, psychological counselling to address trauma, and legal guidance to navigate the aftermath.

Supporting Ukrainian organisations like Proliska is critical, as the war grinds on and freezing winter temperatures exacerbate the suffering of those already struggling to survive. In the past two years, UNHCR and the local partners that we fund in Ukraine have reached millions of people – more than 4.3 million in 2022 and 2.6 million in 2023 – with humanitarian assistance, psychosocial support and protection services.

More than 27,500 homes across the country have been rebuilt or repaired, and more than 270,000 Ukrainians have received emergency shelter kits allowing them to fix light damage to their homes.

We risk being forced to scale back our operations 

The scale of the crisis demands a collective response. Without renewed support from the international community, we risk being forced to scale back our operations in Ukraine and neighbouring countries where refugees are rebuilding their lives — leaving millions of vulnerable individuals and families without vital assistance.

As we reflect on the devastation of the past two years, let us stand together in solidarity with those whose lives have been torn apart by the war. The future feels very uncertain but with your help, we can bring hope and relief to refugees from Ukraine, ensuring they are supported in rebuilding their lives and keeping their families safe.

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