A young girl from Khmelnytskyi, western Ukraine, who fled with her mother to Romania on Feb. 28, 2022, to escape conflict.
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Crisis for Ukraine's Children

As a result of the war in Ukraine:

  • 6.5 million people are internally displaced
  • 7.9 million, 90 percent of them women and children, have fled to Europe
  • altogether, 27.3 million people — including 7.1 million children — are in need of humanitarian assistance in Ukraine and in 19 countries in Europe

UNICEF quickly ramped up humanitarian relief operations when war in Ukraine escalated on Feb. 24, 2022, and continues working with partners inside the country to meet urgent needs. Here is a closer look at UNICEF's impact for vulnerable children and families.

Impact of UNICEF's humanitarian response to Ukraine war  

UNICEF is delivering critical support to meet emergency needs inside Ukraine and in neighboring refugee host countries.

In health, over 4.9 million children and women in Ukraine have been able to access primary health care in UNICEF-supported facilities and through mobile teams.

In water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH), over 5.5 million people have gained access to a sufficient supply of safe water for drinking, cooking and personal hygiene.

In mental health and psychosocial support, nearly 3 million children and caregivers have been reached with support services.

In education, with UNICEF's support, close to 1.5 million children have been able to get back to learning, either in a school or in an informal setting.

UNICEF-funded multi-purpose humanitarian cash transfers have helped 309,100 vulnerable households.

A child protection crisis

The war in Ukraine created a child protection crisis of epic proportions. The rapid outflux of people — mostly children and women — fleeing the fighting and escalation in conflict that erupted on Feb. 24, 2022, dwarfed all other refugee crises of recent years in terms of scale and speed.

In less than three months, 7.7 million people were internally displaced and more than 6.4 million people — including nearly two-thirds of all children in Ukraine, at a rate of one child every second — had crossed into Poland, Romania, Moldova, Slovakia, Hungary and other neighboring countries, according to data from UNHCR, the UN's lead refugee agency. By the end of December, 2022, 7.9 million refugees had been recorded across Europe.

The humanitarian situation has continued to evolve and deepen at an alarming pace. 

Even before the heavy weapons fire and air strikes on cities and civilian neighborhoods, insecurity and deprivation had become a way of life for families in Ukraine's eastern Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts due to a conflict that started in March 2014. Humanitarian needs have been particularly acute for those living in the vicinity of the 'contact line' separating government-controlled areas from non-government-controlled areas.

UNICEF's emergency response teams — on the ground in Ukraine since 2014, addressing impacts of conflict on children in the eastern region — have significantly scaled up operations all across the country since war escalated 

UNICEF response teams have been on the ground on both sides of the contact line for the past eight years, delivering humanitarian assistance to impacted communities. The socio-economic and health impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic only compounded existing hardships.

Together with partners, UNICEF has been steadily ramping up support focusing on the hardest-hit areas, and is committed to sustaining and expanding its emergency response — leveraging its existing relationships and longstanding programmatic presence to reach the most vulnerable.

That includes those who remain in Ukraine and those who have fled to neighboring countries.

How UNICEF is helping children in Ukraine

UNICEF's humanitarian work in Ukraine has always focused on meeting critical needs for health care, safe water and nutrition, while also safeguarding children's rights and long term well-being and helping to strengthen critical systems and essential services.

For many years, and well before conflict started in the eastern region, UNICEF had been providing critical support to help close gaps in Ukraine's health system, particularly in the areas of childhood immunizations and HIV prevention. That support was significantly expanded as UNICEF rushed essential medicines, midwifery kits, surgical kits and other lifesaving supplies to health facilities where women were giving birth in makeshift basement bunkers.

Ongoing support for the UNICEF response in Ukraine — and in refugee-hosting countries — is needed as children and families continue to struggle to survive. 

'Blue Dot' safe spaces provide support to children and mothers on the move 

UNICEF is reaching vulnerable children and families who have fled Ukraine to neighboring countries from three dozen Blue Dot support centers strategically located along transit routes.

Set up by UNICEF and UNHCR along with local authorities and partners, these Blue Dots are an integral part of the UN's broader inter-agency refugee response plan for the region.

Assisting unaccompanied and separated children is a top priority. Protecting women and girls from gender-based violence and sexual exploitation is another. 

Children have been killed. Children have been wounded. And children are being profoundly traumatized by the violence all around them. We must protect all children in Ukraine. Now. They need peace. — UNICEF Executive Director Catherine M. Russell

“Children have been killed. Children have been wounded. And children are being profoundly traumatized by the violence all around them," UNICEF Executive Director Catherine M. Russell said. "We must protect all children in Ukraine. Now. They need peace.”

Afshan Khan, UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia said: “UNICEF is on the ground, doing its best to meet children’s basic needs, but the only way out of the tragedy unfolding in Ukraine is for the conflict to end."

UNICEF's response in neighboring countries

Working with government and other partners, UNICEF is providing a range of support and services to children and women who fled Ukraine for neighboring countries in Eastern Europe and beyond.

Between Feb. 24 and Dec 31, 2022 UNICEF reached:

732,340 people through Blue Dot safe spaces

433,701 women and children with access to primary health care

100,350 people, including children with safe drinking water

588,778 children with education support, including early learning

UNICEF has also supported emergency cash transfers to 113,253 households, directly and via governments. Messages on preventing violence and exploitation — including human trafficking — and how to access to emergency relief services have reached over 10 million people.

UNICEF continues to ship emergency supplies while helping to shore up WASH and child protection services at border crossings and accommodation sites, and to help scale up and sustain quality education, health and child and social protection services for Ukrainian refugees and their host communities.

UNICEF reports details of its response and impact for refugee children and families in Belarus, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Slovakia and many other countries in situation reports posted here

Help UNICEF save and protect Ukraine's most vulnerable children and families. Your tax-deductible contribution can make a difference. Donate today.

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Within weeks of the war's escalation, the UNICEF USA Bridge Fund provided UNICEF with $15.2 million in accelerated funding to support rapid mobilization of resources and procurement of emergency supplies. Learn more about this impact investment tool that helps UNICEF act fast in a crisis.

Top photo: Valeria arrived in Romania on Feb. 28, 2022, after she and her mother fled from their home in Khmelnytskyi, western Ukraine. They have relatives in Poland and in Italy, but have yet to decide where they will go next. © UNICEF/UN0599229/Moldovan