From the Field

Ukraine crisis: Facts, FAQs, and how to help

The people of Ukraine have endured more than six months of escalating destruction and displacement since the war began in February of this year. As of early November, more than 7 million had fled to countries across Europe and nearly 7 million had been displaced within Ukraine. The overwhelming majority of these refugees and displaced people are children and women.

FAQs: What you need to know about Ukraine’s humanitarian crisis

Find answers to frequently asked questions about the war in Ukraine and learn how to help children and their families.

 

Fast facts: War in Ukraine and the refugee crisis

  • Ukraine is the second-largest country in Europe (just after Russia) with a landmass slightly smaller than the state of Texas and a population of about 43 million.
  • Following the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukraine declared independence on August 24, 1991.
  • The country has experienced years of political and economic instability and remains among the countries of Europe suffering the most severe health impacts from the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Due to conflict that began in eastern Ukraine in 2014, nearly 3 million people already needed humanitarian aid before the February 24, 2022, escalation.
  • More than 5 million children, including 3 million inside Ukraine, need humanitarian aid.
  • 13,718 civilian casualties were reported between February 24 and August 28, 2022 — with 5,663 people killed, mostly resulting from explosive weapons in populated areas, according to the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR).
  • More than 980 children have been killed or injured in violence since the beginning of the conflict.
  • About 5.7 million school-aged children have been affected by the conflict, including 3.6 million due to school closures.

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A young child with blond hair and light blue pajamas looks directly at the camera as his mother, whose arms are around him, looks in the other direction.
One-year-old David rests in his mother’s arms after receiving care in a hospital in Ukraine to which World Vision delivered food and medical supplies on March 6, 2022. David’s 31-year-old mother, Olga, said the family fled their hometown in the Kyiv region seeking safety from the escalating conflict. “We’ve been staying in the country for several days,” Olga says. “After the second bombing, we decided to leave. We were hiding in the underground shelters.” Olga said she turned to the hospital after David developed a temperature and seemed unwell. David’s health was improving, and his family also found support and shelter at the medical facility. (©2022 World Vision/photo by Brianna Piazza)

How many people are affected by the war in Ukraine?

According to the United Nations, at least 17 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian aid and protection. In addition to the more than 7 million refugees outside the country, an estimated 7 million people have been displaced within Ukraine, meaning that nearly one of every four Ukrainians has been forced from their homes.

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Where are Ukrainian refugees going?

Refugees have fled to countries across Europe including Poland, the Czech Republic, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania, and Hungary, where they have been widely welcomed by governments and local communities. However, experts warn that as the conflict drags on, host community resources are being stretched — requiring support for local services that benefit both host community members and refugees.

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What’s the potential impact of the crisis in Ukraine?

With over 7 million fleeing Ukraine as of early November, this has become the largest human displacement crisis in the world today, according to the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

The conflict has not only devastated the lives of Ukrainian children and families but has created economic disruptions that are impacting child poverty far beyond Eastern Europe. It not only continues to threaten regional stability but is also expected to continue raising humanitarian needs sharply.

U.N. agencies have observed a dramatic increase in global hunger, which was already on the rise, as conflict has complicated the delivery of critical food exports from Ukraine.

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What’s the impact of the war in Ukraine on the global hunger crisis?

Even before the war in Ukraine, global hunger was on the rise. The escalation of the war in Ukraine has dramatically increased the costs of wheat and other grains, fuel, and fertilizer, supercharging the global hunger crisis and deepening the potential for widespread hunger around the world.

Considered the “breadbasket of Europe,” Ukraine and Russia together export 29% ­of the world’s wheat. In 2021, Ukraine was among the top three global exporters of wheat, corn, rapeseed (used to make canola oil), sunflower seeds, and sunflower oil. Increased stress on food systems is set to increase acute hunger for 323 million people in 2022. Out of 55 countries with food crises, 36 depended on Ukrainian and Russian exports for more than 10% of their wheat imports in 2021, according to the Global Network Against Food Crises.

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How can I help refugees who have fled the war in Ukraine?

Give to help provide care and support for children and families who have been forcibly displaced and those suffering the broader effects of the crisis.

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Map of Ukraine, Moldova, Romania, and Georgia
Locations of where World Vision is working to support families who have fled or been displaced by the war in Ukraine. (©2022 World Vision)

What’s World Vision doing to help families impacted by the war in Ukraine?

As war continues, humanitarian needs are multiplying. World Vision staff in Romania have been working to provide hundreds of thousands of refugees with essential aid, including emergency food assistance packages and educational and psychological support. We’re also working with partners to support refugees in Moldova and displaced families in Ukraine, and through our staff in Georgia, where thousands of visiting Ukrainians were stranded when the conflict began.

Since the escalation of war in Ukraine, we’ve recorded stories of refugees — from mothers like Olga of Kyiv and Angela of Irpin to children who grabbed one last piece of home and fled as war erupted around them.

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How many people has World Vision helped since the start of the war in Ukraine?

We’ve been responding since the first week of the crisis and are continuing to scale our response across the region, with the goal of reaching nearly 300,000 people in Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia over the next few months.

As of September 30, 2022, our staff have provided essentials for 360,718 people.

    • 205,111 people have received emergency food assistance
    • 12,225 people have received temporary shelter assistance
    • 42,621 people have been reached with hygiene kits
  • In Romania, where we’ve had a presence for more than three decades, our local staff began responding at the very outset of the crisis, working to make refugee processing areas more child-friendly, facilitate transportation for refugees, establish temporary shelters, and facilitate medical support for children.
    • To date, we’ve provided 63,036 people with support including food, shelter, protection resources, and education and hygiene kits. That total includes children and women staying at Romexpo, an exhibition center that’s been converted to a 2,000-person shelter.
    • In Bucharest, we’ve supported Ukrainian teachers by paying their salaries, helped mothers access Romanian language lessons, and enabled children to participate in educational activities at a cultural complex.
    • We’ve supported our partners in operating summer schools for children and opened two Happy Bubble centers, offering children a safe educational and recreational space. The centers are among the first of five planned across Romania.
  • In Ukraine, World Vision is working with more than a dozen trusted partners in 23 municipalities and has supported 199,807 people with essentials like food, temporary shelter, hygiene kits, child protection services, and educational programs.
    • We worked with local partners to support 80 summer camps and activities for over 5,400 children displaced within Ukraine.
    • In July alone, we helped coordinate cash assistance for 8,793 people.
    • In early March, we delivered two vanloads of essentials to a 600-bed hospital that had issued an urgent plea for help to officials in its sister town of Siret, Romania. The supplies included mattresses, pillows, sheets, towels, soap, and disinfectant, as well as pasta, grains, rice, oil, condensed milk, and canned meat.
  • In Moldova, World Vision is working in partnership with the World Food Programme to support over 8,000 Moldovan families hosting refugees and is also supporting the improvement of sanitation conditions at a shelter near the border.
    • We’ve provided food and other supplies to 900 refugee households and 600 vulnerable local households.
    • We’ve set up 17 Child-Friendly Spaces that offer psychosocial support to children in both refugee housing and in local communities.
  • In Georgia, we’re helping support 4,000 Ukrainians who were temporarily in the country when the conflict began, including distributing vouchers to cover food, hygiene, clothing, and pharmacy costs.
    • 1,686 individuals have been supported through our programming and activities to date.
    • At any given time, up to 30 children from refugee centers are involved in dance and music therapy.

World Vision’s years of work in Eastern Europe have positioned us well to support those affected by this crisis. In 2021, we assisted 3.2 million people across the Middle East and Eastern Europe through emergency response programs.

Listen to an interview with World Vision U.S. President and CEO Edgar Sandoval Sr. as he shared how the organization was supporting Ukrainian refugees at the outset of the conflict.

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How many children are affected by the conflict in Ukraine?

More than 5 million children displaced within Ukraine are in need of humanitarian aid. Children make up half of all refugees from Ukraine. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reports some 2 million children have fled the country, with another 3 million displaced within Ukraine.

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Yeva hugs her brother Artiom during playtime at a World Vision
Children like 2-year-old Artiom and his 5-year-old sister, Yeva, are finding safe places to play, thanks to World Vision’s child-safe play area at Romexpo in Bucharest, Romania. (©2022 Laura Reinhardt/World Vision)

How are children being impacted by the Ukraine crisis?

Ukraine’s 7.5 million children have been put at grave risk. The conflict has forced them into situations of extreme vulnerability and has led to mental and emotional stress, the loss of loved ones, interruption in education, and the destruction of homes and family livelihoods.

Children continue to be killed, injured, and deeply affected by the violence. At least 365 children’s deaths have been documented between February 24 and August 28, 2022, along with injuries to an additional 623 children, according to OHCHR.

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How is the war impacting education in Ukraine?

War in Ukraine has displaced students and teachers, destroyed schools, and dramatically hampered the delivery of education. As the school year begins, the education of an estimated 5.7 million children has been affected, including 3.6 million due to school closures.

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How many schools have been destroyed?

As of May 6, 2022, 1,635 schools and universities (5% of total) have been damaged as a result of hostilities, and 126 have been destroyed, according to the World Bank, which cites the Ministry of Education and Science of Ukraine (MoES).

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Is it safe for students in Ukraine to return to school?

About 86% of schools in Ukraine have resumed classes through online initiatives.

World Vision is providing informal education and catch-up materials to children in Ukraine. More than 5,000 children have received educational support in Ukraine and surrounding countries.

World Vision is deeply concerned about children losing access to education.

“The conflict is jeopardizing the future for an entire generation of Ukrainian children,” said Jennifer Neelsen, World Vision’s Ukraine crisis response director. “Within the space of six months, their lives have drastically changed, and now their access to education has been compromised or even entirely cut off.”

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What are other concerns for children affected by the Ukraine crisis?

Mark, a Ukrainian boy in Romania, smiles as he holds up two green stuffed toys
The war in Ukraine has displaced millions of children and their families throughout Eastern Europe, including Bucharest, Romania — where World Vision and its partners are supporting families with emergency food and supplies, including toys and educational materials, at the Romexpo shelter. (©2022 World Vision/photo by Paul Wu)

In addition to missing out on school, children affected by the war in Ukraine are also at risk of lasting psychosocial impacts. Over 1.5 million risk mental health complications as a result of being exposed to the horrors of war. According to the U.N., almost every child in Ukraine has been exposed to deeply distressing events.

 

“As always, innocent children are bearing the brunt of conflict,” said World Vision’s Jennifer Neelsen, director of the Ukraine response. “Many have witnessed violence and death, millions have been forced to leave their homes, their pets, and even family members. Their lives have been torn apart and the international community must prioritize their mental health and education.”

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Is World Vision helping support the emotional needs of children?

World Vision has set up Child-Friendly Spaces (CFS) to help meet the emotional needs of children impacted by the crisis. In these safe spaces, children can play, engage in informal learning, and express their worries and fears to trained, caring staff. Most importantly, they get a chance to just be a child with other children who are facing the same situation.

The national director for World Vision’s Romania office, Mihaela Nabăr, said the spaces also give children some time to experience aspects of a normal life again.

World Vision research has shown that conflict has severe and long-term impacts on children. It is vitally important for children who have been forced to flee Ukraine to quickly retrieve some kind of routine, have something to look forward to and have something familiar they can enjoy. And this is what a CFS can partly provide,” Mihaela explained.

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How can I be praying for children and families made vulnerable by this crisis?

For World Vision, prayer is a first response. As a Christian organization, we believe that communities of faith have an important role to play in restoring peace and wellness to Ukraine — both in the country and around the world.

Please join us in interceding with God:

  • For peace and stability to be restored quickly and for children and families to be protected from harm.
  • For His protection over children and families as they are uprooted from their hometowns.
  • For the needs of children and families caught up in conflict and threatened by danger.
  • For World Vision staff to be able to quickly reach the most vulnerable families with the resources they need most.

One of our global staff members shared the following beautiful prayer:

Loving God, Creator of all peoples and source of all love,
We are saddened by the unleashing of horror and destruction in Ukraine.
We pray that the very best practices of peace will prevail.
We pray gratefully that Your Spirit of healing and hope is present.
We are committed as Your people, as disciples of Your gospel of reconciliation, to wage peace as we are able in all Your good and lovely creation.
We pray this in the name and healing spirit of Jesus.
Amen.

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