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 21,000 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 5 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, and language barriers. 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, LGBTQIA+ communities, people from third countries outside the EU and Ukraine, young women and children travelling alone, and survivors of gender-based violence.
Oxfam’s humanitarian response: partnering with local civil society organizations
Oxfam is responding to this humanitarian crisis by primarily working with local civil society organizations who are already supporting displaced people and the communities that host them. Both in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries we have provided funding and technical assistance to 35 organizations.
Our partners have been able to expand their operations to deliver 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 1.1 milion people with vital humanitarian assistance across the four countries.
As the war continues, a more structured support is needed
The conflict in Ukraine has once again shown that local organization are often best placed to support the needs of communities affected by crisis and have a better understanding of who is at risk of being left behind. Despite relative availability of resources for humanitarian response, local and national organizations working those impacted by the conflict continue to face challenges accessing flexible funding and decision-making spaces. Women’s rights and women-led organizations, who target support towards marginalized communities including women and girls and who are vital responders, often have to contend with additional barriers to access resources.
Oxfam will continue to coordinate with and support local partners to mitigate the devastating effects of the conflict. We are striving to ensure that we create and maintain equitable partnerships, adapting our ways of working and remaining flexible to best support local organizations based on their needs. Donors and international humanitarian agencies need prioritize support and funding to local and national organizations in their response to the conflict in Ukraine. These efforts must be centered on a reforming the humanitarian system to put local leadership at the forefront of crisis response, both in Ukraine and around the world.