UNICEF in Ukraine

January 25, 2023

On the ground in Ukraine since 1997, UNICEF has stayed to provide critical support and humanitarian assistance to children and families in Ukraine and neighboring countries since the escalation of the war on Feb. 24, 2022.

Here is a look at some of the specific challenges Ukrainian families are facing — and what UNICEF is doing to help.

Providing essential supplies to help families inside Ukraine survive winter

"We want the snow to fall on a new roof, not our heads," 17-year-old Oleksandra said. Her family worked hard to repair their home, which was badly damaged during the early months of the war, before winter arrived. "When I returned to Irpin, I did not recognize the city because everything was broken. It felt like a piece of your memories had been torn off," she explained. © UNICEF

Seventeen-year-old Oleksandra and her family have done everything they could to repair their house ahead of the cold winter months. The house was badly damaged by shrapnel and bullets, the roof torn down.

With many houses destroyed, families like Oleksandra's are struggling to meet basic needs. Harsh winter weather, with freezing temperatures and heavy snowfall, only bring more challenges.

UNICEF has been distributing blankets, winter clothes, boots and other cold-weather gear, and providing cash transfers and child care support to families in need. Read more about how UNICEF is helping families get through winter.

Helping children get back to school — a top priority

Lyuda cried the first time she saw her old classroom destroyed, remembering all of her belongings that were left inside: her shoes, her jacket and her teddy bear. The teachers of Horenka, a small village in the Kyiv region, are determined to keep giving their students an education, despite the war. © UNICEF/Olena Hrom

The war has put school on hold for an estimated 4 million children. With thousands of schools destroyed or damaged — and with ongoing violence that makes going to school a security risk — families are struggling to find ways to ensure their children can still receive an education.

UNICEF continues to provide mental health and psychosocial support to students and to help connect them with formal and non-formal education opportunities, including early learning. UNICEF also helps train teachers in first aid to prepare them as first responders in the event their school is attacked.

Between Feb. 24 and Dec. 31, 2022, UNICEF reached 1,452,000 million children with learning support inside Ukraine.

UNICEF continues to work with the Ukraine government to help get children back to learning — in classrooms when it is deemed safe, and through online or community-based alternatives if in-person learning is not possible.

While more than 1.9 million children were accessing online learning opportunities — and 1.3 million children are enrolled in a combination of in-person and online instruction — recent attacks against electricity and other energy infrastructure have caused widespread blackouts and left almost every child in Ukraine without sustained access to electricity, meaning that even attending virtual classes is an ongoing challenge.

Read more about how UNICEF is helping ensure children can continue learning.

Ensuring children with disabilities have the support they need 

Theona, a 4-year-old girl who is on the autism spectrum, was able to receive the support she needs when her family was forced to relocate to Lviv, Ukraine, due to the war. She now attends a child development center supported by UNICEF and is learning how to express her feelings using picture cards. © UNICEF

As 14 million fled their homes in search of safety, children with disabilities were uprooted both from their familiar surroundings and from the support system so essential to them. Four-year-old Theona has autism spectrum disorder, and when her family left their home in Kherson, they needed to find a new support system for her after they resettled in southern Ukraine around 600 miles from Lviv.

Theona is currently receiving support with from UNICEF-supported specialists at the Dzherelo Children's Rehabilitation Center. Across the country, UNICEF is working to provide children with disabilities the professional care and assistive devices they need. 

Read more about how UNICEF is supporting children with disabilities and their families.

Helping families meet basic needs by providing humanitarian cash transfers 

Vira, a mother of three from Zaporizhzhia oblast in eastern Ukraine, was able to use UNICEF’s humanitarian cash assistance to purchase food and medicine for her children. ©UNICEF/UN0678107/Filippov

Making emergency cash payments to families is one of the quickest and most effective ways to meet the urgent needs of children. UNICEF and partners have distributed $125 million in humanitarian cash transfers to families in Ukraine — focusing on those with three or more children and children with disabilities — reaching nearly 310,000 households.

"This program is about helping families in a crisis do what they believe is best for their children," said Murat Sahin, UNICEF Representative in Ukraine. "No one is in a better position to decide how to get the most out of this support than a parent or guardian."

Reach more about UNICEF's humanitarian cash transfer program.

Creating safe havens in neighboring countries

Visitors to the UNICEF-UNHCR Blue Dot center in Brasov, Romania, are welcomed by the smiles of twin teenage boys from Odessa, Yevgheny and Oleksei. The two are inseparable, and spend many hours at the front desk, assisting refugees and helping the center staff with various tasks. “We come here almost every day now, as volunteers, trying to help other Ukrainians that are in this hard situation, like us.” ©UNICEF/UN0712206/Raica

As the Ukraine war sent millions of children and women fleeing across borders, UNICEF and UNHCR worked together to open 'Blue Dot' service hubs along popular transit routes. These safe havens provided a range of services, including essential information on available accommodation and transportation, safe spaces for children to play, and counseling and mental health support.

The initial UNICEF-UNHCR Blue Dots were a success in providing urgent support to refugee children and their families. There are currently 40 of these centers operating in Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Moldova, Bulgaria and elsewhere.

Read more about how UNICEF-UNHCR Blue Dots are providing support for Ukrainian families who have fled to neighboring countries.

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

Top photo: A young Ukrainian refugee plays in a UNICEF-UNHCR Blue Dot center in Brasov, Romania. There are 40 of these service hubs operating in countries neighboring Ukraine, providing refugees temporary lodging, meals, travel information, a playroom for children, emotional support and other services. ©UNICEF/UN0633873/Holerga