Oxfam’s response to the Ukraine crisis

Irina receives advice at Ukrainian House, a shelter in Poland.

Irina came from Ukraine with her sons Sadar (4) and Nadar (13). She tries to find work and receives advice from Oxfam staff at Ukrainian House, a shelter in Poland. “I cannot be away from my kids for long hours every day, they need me even more since they have been terrified by all the violence in our home town” Irina says. “They still are very scared and have nightmares”. Photo: Tineke Dhaese/Oxfam

After eight years of armed conflict in the east of the country, the Russian Federation started a military offensive in Ukraine on 24 February 2022. The impact of this war has been devastating. It has so far caused more than 16,000 civilian casualties and the destruction of key infrastructure, such as hospitals, schools, homes, and water installations.

The conflict has displaced about 14 million people from their homes to seek safety within or outside the country, mostly to Poland, Romania and Moldova. Of those fleeing, 90% have been women, children and elderly people. While some refugees stay in neighbouring countries, many have passed through and travelled on to other destinations in Europe. Some have also returned to Ukraine. It is estimated that more than 6 million people are currently displaced within the country.

Our concerns for the most vulnerable

As a humanitarian organisation, Oxfam is gravely concerned about the impacts of the crisis on those most at risk – among both those who have fled the country and those who remain in Ukraine.

Many people who leave their homes are traumatized by war, separation, and travel. They can face difficulties in registering in other countries or areas, challenges accessing legal advice, language barriers, and pushbacks. Without the protections of their usual homes, sources of income, family and community, they are  at greater risk of trafficking, extortion, and gender-based violence.

We are also concerned about the unequal treatment and lack of adequate protection of refugees from certain minority groups like the Roma, LGBTQI+ communities, people from third countries outside the EU, young women and children travelling alone, and survivors of gender-based violence.

Olga, a 34-year-old Ukrainian refugee from Vinnytsia in her shared room at the Center for Humanitarian and Social Aid in Romania.

Olga, a 34-year-old Ukrainian refugee from Vinnytsia in her shared room at the Center for Humanitarian and Social Aid in Romania. “We’ve been here for three weeks. I came with my young son who is nine years old, and my mother. He likes it very much here. Psychologically he unloaded, he relaxed. In Ukraine, he was not allowed to go to school, we were afraid to go out, we constantly heard sirens that did not give us peace. We were constantly hiding." Photo: Ioana Moldovan/Oxfam

Oxfam’s humanitarian response: partnering with local civil society organizations

Oxfam is supporting the humanitarian response both in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries. We are channelling our technical support, expertise, and funding through more than 20 local partner organizations in Ukraine, Moldova, Poland and Romania, who are already working directly with displaced people and the communities that host them, helping these organizations to expand their own capacities and impact.

Through this partnership our partners are providing emergency life-saving assistance and protection across different areas: water and sanitation, shelter, food, cash distribution, legal assistance, information and counselling (particularly on the risks of human trafficking and gender-based violence), and mental health and psychological support, as well as a variety of integration services (such as language classes or job search support).

So far, we have helped more than 600,000 people with vital humanitarian assistance across the four countries.

A more structured response is needed, as the war continues and winter approaches

The initial response of volunteers, community groups, and local NGOs and authorities has been vital to securing people’s rights in the short term. At the same time, such ad hoc voluntary support is not sustainable while savings of Ukrainian families – who have seen their houses and livelihoods destroyed - are drying up. Affected communities and the local communities and organizations that help them need to be supported in a more structured way by governments of refugee receiving countries and the international aid community to respond to the prolonged crisis and to protect the most vulnerable groups.

As the war continues, we need to maintain solidarity with all the people impacted by the crisis and ensure they remain protected throughout the difficult winter season that is approaching.