Last updated:

Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis

Support recovery now

After months of posturing while simultaneously denying any plans to attack, Russia’s Vladimir Putin assaults on multiple cities in Ukraine began overnight on Feb. 24 and have continued day and night since then.

The Center for Disaster Philanthropy’s (CDP) response to this crisis is focused on humanitarian needs that arise, particularly among internally displaced peoples (IDPs) and refugees. We are not looking at the conflict itself except for how it affects population movement and humanitarian needs. To that end, this profile is not providing detailed updates about the status of the war as we believe that is better done by news media.

In their Situation Report on April 26, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said, “According to the revised estimations, over 24 million people – more than half of Ukraine’s population – will need humanitarian assistance in the months ahead, about 8 million more than what was estimated less than two months ago.”

(Photo: Border crossing point in Medyka, Poland. Source: Polish Ministry of the Interior and Administration via Twitter)

Putin stated that Russian forces were targeting Ukrainian military infrastructure, not people or communities. However, images and stories from Ukraine paint a different picture, including numerous civilian casualties and injuries.

This is the largest mobilization of forces in Europe since World War II. This latest attack is part of a multi-year crisis stemming back to 2014 and beyond.

CNBC reported: “Heightened fears of a military conflict between Russia and Ukraine have been present for some time, and eastern Ukraine has been the location of a proxy war between the two countries. Soon after Russia’s annexation of Crimea from Ukraine in 2014, pro-Russian separatists proclaimed two republics in the eastern part of the country: the Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic — much to the Ukrainian government’s consternation. Since then, there have been ongoing skirmishes and fighting in the region, which is known as the Donbas, between Ukraine’s troops and separatists.”

Latest Updates

See all

Key facts
  • As of May 4, the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported 6,635 civilian casualties in the country, including 3,238 killed and 3,397 Of those killed, 1,162 were men, 738 were women, and 155 were children (71 girls and 84 boys). OHCHR said the actual figures are considerably higher and most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused “by the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area.”
  • As of May 4, more than 5.7 million refugees have fled Ukraine since Feb. 24, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
  • As of April 21, there are 7.7 million IDPs in Ukraine. At least 600,000 were displaced internally from April 1 to 17.
  • As of May 5, there were more than 5 million cases of COVID-19 and 108,411 deaths in Ukraine.
  • The UN and humanitarian partners issued the revised Flash Appeal and Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) on April 25, with nearly $4.1 billion required to meet the needs of 17 million people inside and outside Ukraine.
  • The UN and its humanitarian partners have provided aid to around 4.1 million people across Ukraine.
Safe passage and access to aid

The lack of continuous access to affected and encircled areas of Ukraine is impeding the delivery of critical food assistance. Access to healthcare continues to be a challenge, with one in three households that have at least one person with a chronic condition unable to secure medication and necessary care.

According to the Ukraine Logistics Cluster’s Situation Update on April 26, “The volatile security situation, particularly in eastern and southern oblasts, is creating difficulties for planning and executing aid delivery, including the forward movement, and staging of humanitarian cargo.”

On May 3, the UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine Osnat Lubrani announced that 101 civilians had been successfully evacuated from the Azovstal steel plant in the besieged city of Mariupol and other areas in a safe passage operation.

Refugees and internally displaced peoples

From Feb. 24 to May 4, 2022, 5,707,967 million refugees had left the country, according to UNHCR. The war has caused the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis since World War II.

As of May 4, Poland was hosting 3,119,196 Ukrainian refugees, the most of any neighboring country. According to the revised Ukraine Situation RRRP, 90% of refugees are women and children. On March 4, “European Union (EU) Member States activated the Temporary Protection Directive (TPD) for the first time. The TPD stipulates that all Member States must grant temporary protection (TP) to Ukrainians and persons with protection status in Ukraine and their family members residing in Ukraine before 24 February.”

An estimated 7.7 million people have been internally displaced within the country. This represents 17% or one in six people in the country. Of these, 60% are women. Click To TweetMore than half of IDPs have reported challenges accessing food. While 15% want to return home soon, 8% have experienced damage to their homes.

The rapid influx of displaced people in western Ukraine and neighboring countries is overwhelming response capacities in those areas.

Source: UNOCHA, IOM, REACH, UNHCR

Since Feb. 28, 1,257,5001 Ukrainians have crossed the Western border into Ukraine. Although the number of border crossings out of Ukraine into neighboring countries is still higher, this trend is declining. UNHCR does not consider all these individuals as returnees and notes that definitive trends cannot yet be drawn. The situation remains volatile and unpredictable.

At the Slovakian border, Monika Molnárová, from Caritas Slovakia’s stop human trafficking team told The Guardian, “The risk of trafficking is considerable, as the refugees, exhausted and deprived of any basic comfort, are, with every new day on the road, more and more vulnerable. We believe traffickers and recruiters are most probably targeting both women travelling alone and women travelling with children.”

There were nearly 80,000 foreign students in Ukraine at the beginning of the conflict. Many are Indian or African (mostly from Morocco, Egypt and Nigeria) and both groups are reporting stories of racism and discrimination at the border in trying to leave the country. They have been forcibly removed from trains, denied access to buses and forced to walk miles in the cold.

The Biden administration announced last month that the U.S. would accept 100,000 Ukrainians. “An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll shows 65% of Americans favor accepting Ukrainian refugees into the U.S., while 15% oppose. An additional 19% say they neither favor nor oppose.”

Details revealed about the program on April 21 indicate that immigration through Mexico will not be a viable option except in extreme circumstances. Questions about Ukrainian migrants getting priority over those from Central America and elsewhere remain.

Admission under Uniting for Ukraine, which starts April 25, requires:

  • Residency in Ukraine as of Feb. 11.
  • A family or organizational sponsor.
  • Full vaccinations and other public health requirements.
  • Biometrics (typically eyes and fingerprints).
  • Ability to pass background checks.

Due to the U.S. removing its diplomats from Ukraine, applications will be completed in Eastern Europe. Those that are accepted will receive humanitarian parole including two years of residence and work authorization.

Marginalized and at-risk populations

Ukraine has more than 130 ethnic groups, many of whom speak other languages. Groups with heightened vulnerabilities include the Roma community, the elderly, people with disabilities, women in rural communities in displacement and conflict zones, and LGBTQIA+ communities.

UN OCHA has indicated that the most vulnerable populations in Donetska and Luhansja oblasts are older people. They comprise 30% of the people in need, followed by people with disabilities, women and children.

According to the International Organization for Migration’s (IOM) General Population Survey (Round 3), “Among respondents living in households with a member(s) with disabilities, 29 per cent indicated that their relatives with disabilities were facing additional barriers in accessing health care on account of their disability.”

A recent survey of older people in eastern Ukraine conducted by HelpAge International revealed 99% of older people do not want to be evacuated from their homes, 91% need help to get food because they have mobility issues and 75% need hygiene items. According to HelpAge International, “older people make up a third of all people in need of assistance in Ukraine, making this conflict the ‘oldest’ humanitarian crisis in the world.”

As of 2021, more than 2.7 million people in Ukraine were registered with disabilities, including nearly 164,000 children. Many of these children are housed in orphanages or institutions. Care must be taken for their safety during evacuations. As the school year in Ukraine nears its end, 17% of UNICEF-supported ‘Safe Schools’ in eastern Ukraine are damaged or destroyed.

Refugees fleeing Ukraine that identify as LGBTQIA+ will face discrimination and need safe housing, medical care and transportation. LGBTQIA+ people in Ukraine often cannot reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity, fearing violence, rejection and discrimination if they do. People’s identities are complex and intersect in ways that can exacerbate inequitable outcomes.

Economic and food security impacts

Ukraine’s Ministry of Economy said the country’s economy shrunk by 16% between January and April this year and is projecting a 40% decline by the end of 2022. The Prime Minister of Ukraine said that economic losses from the military offensive may exceed $1 trillion.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has predicted:

  • 35% decrease in Ukraine’s economy this year.
  • Negative impact on global markets.
  • A decrease of 8.5% for the Russian Federation’s gross domestic product.
  • IMF stressed that even if the war ended soon, the displacement and loss of people, as well as the destruction of physical capital, would seriously hamper economic activity for many years to come … Further, IMF concluded that, beyond the immediate humanitarian impacts, the war in Ukraine would severely set back the global recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, slowing growth and increasing inflation even further.”
Source: International Monetary Fund

A European Business Association (EBA) survey found 42% of small businesses are no longer operating. Despite their limited resources, business owners are trying their best to support employees. The survey revealed that “almost a third, namely 27% continue to pay wages in full, another 8% pay extra money or salary in advance.”

According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), early data indicates that “90% of the Ukrainian population could be facing poverty and extreme economic vulnerability should the war deepen, setting the country – and the region – back decades and leaving deep social and economic scars for generations to come.”

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) says that it needs an additional $115 million to assist Ukrainian farmers and households. The FAO said, “the funding would help prevent further deterioration of the food insecurity situation and worsen the disruption of food supply chains in Ukraine. There is an urgency to support Ukrainian farmers in planting vegetables and potatoes during this spring season, and farmers should be allowed and supported to go to their fields and save the winter wheat harvest. FAO has estimated that one-third of Ukrainian crops and agricultural land may not be harvested or cultivated in 2022.”

The conflict is likely to exacerbate world hunger, particularly in countries already facing famine or high levels of malnutrition and food shortages. It will also increase the costs of many products globally. Ukraine exported a number of products that will significantly impact the global food supply chain.

According to OEC: “The top exports of Ukraine are Corn ($4.77B), Seed Oils ($3.75B), Iron Ore ($3.36B), Wheat ($3.11B), and Semi-Finished Iron ($2.55B), exporting mostly to Russia ($4.69B), China ($3.94B), Germany ($3.08B), Poland ($2.75B), and Italy ($2.57B).”

Corn is the most exported product in the country and Ukraine is the fourth-largest exporter of corn in the world. Seed oil is the second most exported product, but Ukraine is the largest exporter of this item globally. Ukraine is the fifth-largest exporter of wheat in the world, its fourth-highest exported product.

Women and girls

During all disasters, there are unique needs faced by women and girls, and these are exacerbated in a conflict crisis. There have been numerous reports of rape and other forms of gender-based violence. On May 3, the UN and the government of Ukraine signed a framework to assist survivors of sexual violence.

CARE produced a rapid gender analysis (RGA) brief on the Ukraine crisis that highlights significant gender issues – both pre-existing issues and ones that have emerged as a result of the conflict – so that humanitarian responses can better meet people’s different needs as the crisis evolves.

According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) the needs of women and girls must be prioritized because of the ongoing threats that they face.

In a note on the gender-related impacts of the conflict, the FAO said: “Increasing food insecurity and water and energy scarcity, as a result of the crisis, may place women and girls at higher risk of domestic violence due to heightened tensions in the household and communities.”

Dr. Natalia Kanem, Executive Director of UNFPA said, “Women do not stop getting pregnant or giving birth during conflict, and their access to lifesaving health services is literally under attack in Ukraine. With health and social service facilities being bombed and shelled, and reports of rape and other forms of gender-based violence rising, UNFPA is focused on meeting the distinct needs of women and girls.”

When the war began, at least 265,000 women were pregnant in Ukraine, and 80,000 of those were due to give birth in the coming 3 months.

There are three types of needs in this situation:

  • Supporting individuals and families within Ukraine, including people staying in place and internally displaced persons.
  • Providing assistance in receiving countries across Europe that are taking in tens and hundreds of thousands of refugees. This may include host communities in other continents as well, as the crisis continues.
  • Responding to the global economic fallout, especially as it pertains to world hunger, given the impact on the exportation of food products from Russia and Ukraine.

Cash assistance

As with most disasters and emergencies, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the most significant area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs. CDP recommends cash both as a donation method and a recovery strategy. Providing direct cash assistance can allow families to purchase items and services that address their multiple needs. It gives each family flexibility and choice, ensuring that support is relevant and timely. Cash assistance can also help move families faster towards rebuilding their lives.

As of May 5, the Cash Working Group (CWG) partners have distributed multipurpose cash assistance to 472,000 people, totaling $64.9 million in transfers.

Material assistance

Despite the call for cash assistance, we also recognize that certain essential items are often difficult to obtain by individuals because of the inability to access stores due to fighting or fleeing, lack of financial resources, or supply chain issues.

The fifth humanitarian inter-agency convoy arrived in Chernihiv on April 20. UN agencies and humanitarian partners continue to maintain a pipeline of supplies across key sectors, including food security and livelihoods, protection, health and shelter.

Food

Around 10.2 million people across Ukraine are estimated to be in need of food and livelihood assistance between March and August 2022. Low-income households affected by the conflict are likely to experience Stressed (Integrated Food Security Phase Classification Phase 2) and Crisis (IPC Phase 3) levels of acute food insecurity.

Disruptions to supply chains and markets across the country mean that even when food is available, people may not be able to access it. Loss of livelihoods and access to sources of income is affecting people’s purchasing power and food security.

There is growing concern about older adults inside Ukraine considering their specific vulnerabilities and food requirements. Older adults may choose or be compelled to shelter in place.

Protection

According to UNOCHA’s Situation Report on April 26: “Some 15.7 million people are estimated to be in need of protection assistance and services between March and August 2022, including 2.1 million children, 3.3 million people in need of protection services mitigating the risks and outcomes of GBV [gender-based violence], and 14.5 million people in need of mine action-related assistance.”

The IOM’s General Population Survey (Round 3) reveals a worrying trend regarding the need for psychosocial support. Nearly 19% of all respondents requested to receive a phone number of IOM’s free psychosocial support hotline, compared to 16% in the Round 2 survey from early April.

Shelter

According to UNOCHA’s Situation Report on April 26: “Some 6.2 million people are estimated to be in need of shelter and NFI between March and August 2022.” People living in the areas most directly affected are significantly impacted in terms of shelter, and cities in the western oblasts continue to face challenges in finding accommodation for people who cannot make arrangements on their own.

Local procurement within Ukraine remains challenging as the capacity of markets varies in the country. The Global Shelter Cluster Environment Community of Practice has produced a document summarizing environment considerations.

Water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH)

Ukraine’s water system infrastructure has been significantly impacted due to the conflict.

An estimated 1.4 million people in eastern Ukraine do not have access to water, and another 4.6 million people in the country have only limited access. The IOM’s General Population Survey (Round 3) found that 54% of respondents need for menstrual hygiene items, and 15% indicated the need for baby and/or adult diapers.

The CDP Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund focuses on addressing humanitarian needs that arise, particularly among the most vulnerable, marginalized and at-risk internally-displaced peoples and refugees. CDP is also in contact with and can grant to Ukrainian and other international organizations that are not 501(c)3 entities.

Support recovery now

Contact CDP

Philanthropic contributions

If you would like to make a donation to the CDP Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Recovery Fund, please contact development.

Recovery updates

If you are a responding NGO, please send updates on how you are working in this crisis to tanya.gulliver-garcia@disasterphilanthropy.org. Responding donors are also encouraged to contact Tanya to share how they are innovatively assisting people in Ukraine and receiving communities.

Donor recommendations

If you are a donor looking for recommendations on how to help in this crisis, please email regine.webster@disasterphilanthropy.org.

Philanthropic and government support

There has been a strong philanthropic response to the war in Ukraine. According to Candid’s latest figures, 948 donations and pledges worth more than $1.6 billion have been made in support of the Ukrainian people. Of this 791 are grants worth $1,047,281,397 and 157 are pledges worth $679,970,680. Learn more about how you can share your data with Candid.

Grants from the philanthropic community vary in size, focus and sector. Inside Philanthropy has a summary of philanthropy’s response. The following are examples of the diversity of philanthropy’s response:

On April 25, the UN and humanitarian partners launched a revised Flash Appeal for Ukraine, building on the initial appeal published on March 1. In the six weeks between appeals, needs have continued to rise while the humanitarian response has expanded significantly. The revised Flash Appeal calls for $2.25 billion to provide assistance and protection to nearly nine million people inside Ukraine. This figure is more than double the initial appeal reflecting the scale of humanitarian need in the country.

Source: UNOCHA

According to UNOCHA, 45% of the $2.25 billion requested has been funded as of May 5. The largest sources of appeal funding are the U.S. ($240.2 million), the European Commission ($119.7 million) and Japan ($79 million).

The Ukraine Situation Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) seeks $1.85 billion to assist a project refugee population of 8.3 million people. According to UNOCHA, 16.4% of this figure has been funded as of May 5.

On April 21: “The Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani … announced the release of an additional US$50 million from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF) to support nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and United Nations agencies to continue to expand their life-saving work, following the most recent escalation of the war in the country. This is the largest allocation in the history of the fund, established in 2019. With this new disbursement, OCHA’s humanitarian funds will have allocated over $158 million for life-saving operations in Ukraine since Russia Federation’s invasion on 24 February, including nearly $98 million from the UHF and $60 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).”

In April, UNOCHA released an updated UN Business Guide for the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis, which includes information about how the private sector can help. All response activities should be guided by the humanitarian principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, independence and Do No Harm.

More ways to help

As with most disasters, cash donations are recommended by disaster experts as they allow for on-the-ground agencies to direct funds to the greatest area of need, support economic recovery and ensure donation management does not detract from disaster recovery needs.

The UN Business Guide describes how the private sector can help. In the Guide, UNOCHA “urges companies to refrain from sending unsolicited donations that may not correspond to identified needs or meet international quality standards.”  Donors are encouraged to send cash rather than in-kind donations and support activities with the Flash Appeal and the RRRP.

CDP has also created a list of suggestions for foundations to consider related to disaster giving. These include:

  • Understand that recovery is possible in protracted and complex crisis settings: Even while focusing on immediate needs, remember that there are early and long-term recovery needs too. We know that people who have been affected by shocks in complex humanitarian contexts can recover and improve their situation without waiting until the crisis is over, which may take years. Recovery is possible and funding will be needed for recovery efforts alongside humanitarian funding. Recovery will take a long time and funding will be needed throughout.
  • Recognize there are places and ways that private philanthropy can help that other donors may not: Private funders can support nimble and innovative solutions that leverage or augment the larger humanitarian system response, either filling gaps or modeling change that, once tested and proven, can be taken to scale within the broader humanitarian response structure. Philanthropy can also provide sustainable funding to national and local organizations that support operational costs evolution, independence and other efforts on behalf of affected people.
  • All funders are disaster philanthropists: Even if your organization does not work in a particular geographic area or fund immediate relief efforts, you can look for ways to tie disaster funding into your existing mission. If you focus on education, health, children or marginalized populations, disasters present prime opportunities for funding.
  • Ask the experts: If you are considering supporting an organization that is positioned to work in an affected area, do some research. CDP and InterAction can provide resources and guidance about organizations working in affected communities.

Related resources

See them all

Internally Displaced People

Internally Displaced People

Internally displaced persons are those who have been forced to flee their homes, in particular as a result of armed conflict, generalized violence, violations of human rights or disasters, and who have not crossed an internationally recognized border.

Refugees

Refugees

Refugees are people who have been forced to flee their home countries because of persecution, war or violence. A refugee has a well-founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, political opinion or membership in a particular social group. Many refugees are in exile to escape the effects of natural or human-made disasters.

Older Individuals

Older Individuals

Disasters disproportionately affect older people. Yet, this population is often “invisible” in terms of data about risks and needs, guidelines, planning and overall understanding of their unique needs during a disaster.