After over a year, there is no end in sight for the war in Ukraine. Millions of civilians are unable to return home. Many still in the country are forced to live without access to food, water or electricity, in fear of constant shelling.

This is not an isolated crisis—the ripple effects of the war can be felt across the globe. Blockades of Ukrainian grain exports have worsened hunger in some of the world’s most vulnerable regions. And as Russia recently withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which had allowed some shipments to resume, global food security is in even greater danger. In East Africa, for instance, a perfect storm of continued drought, the blockade, and the economic fallout from the war is causing mass starvation. Without urgent international funding, the lives of millions of people are at stake.

Get the facts on how the war in Ukraine is continuing to impact both people within its borders and people around the globe.

Editor's note: Over the weekend of May 12, intensified fighting forced thousands to evacuate from Vovchansk and other towns in Kharkiv region, with some families having to walk for miles to get to safer areas. The IRC is working in the evacuation hub in Kharkiv, providing emergency aid and psychological support. Learn more.

What is life like inside Ukraine?

The continued war in Ukraine is causing extreme civilian harm and leaving millions without access to food, water and other essential supplies. Innocent civilians have been cruelly caught up in the conflict, with almost 23,000 casualties since February 24th 2022. More than 8,000 people have been killed, with the actual number likely much higher. Over 5.1 million have been internally displaced.

There has been catastrophic damage to civilian infrastructure, including hospitals and schools. The recent dam explosion in the Kherson region has dramatically worsened the situation of people who have survived over a year of intense hostilities.

Attacks on infrastructure

Missile strikes have damaged approximately 50% of Ukraine’s power grid, and the overall damage to energy infrastructure in Ukraine is estimated to add up to at least US $10 billion. The destruction of water sources in particular left as many as 16 million people without access to clean water or sanitation, and at increased risk of water-borne illnesses in 2022.

Continued violence across Ukraine is pushing the country further into humanitarian catastrophe as hospitals run out of medical supplies and families lose access to food and other essentials.

Olga stands on a ladder, half-way standing in her underground cellar. She has taken out a variety of pickled fruits and vegetables which sit in jars on the ground next to her.
Olga in her pickle cellar in Mykolaiv, Ukraine. When the fighting got to her neighborhood, Olga and her neighbors spent entire days and nights in the small cellar, using it as a bomb shelter. Sometimes the only food they had to eat was her pickled vegetables. Olga was supported by the IRC's cash transfer program.
Photo: Diana Zeyneb Alhindawi for the IRC

What is life like for those displaced by the war in Ukraine?

The war in Ukraine has triggered the fastest forced mass flight of the century in Europe. The majority of those displaced are women and children, who are always most at risk of exploitation and abuse during crises.

How many Ukrainian refugees are there?

As of June 2023, there are over 5.9 million refugees from Ukraine recorded across Europe.

Where have most Ukrainian refugees found protection?

Ukrainian refugees are predominantly finding safety in neighboring countries. To date, there are almost 1 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland while other nearby countries Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and Moldova have each given safety to tens of thousands of Ukrainian refugees.

Two sisters stand together in a parklng lot. Each sister has her own two kids with her. Together, the extended family huddle together and pose for a photo.
Marta* and Oksana* are two sisters from Ukraine. When the war escalated they fled together with their children and one small bag to Poland. The sisters are grateful for the assistance provided by volunteers who are welcoming refugees.
Photo: Andrew Oberstadt for the IRC

What is life like for Ukrainian women and children fleeing the conflict?

In crisis settings, existing gender inequality is exacerbated while instances of gender based violence increase. Women and girls with extremely stretched resources and disrupted support networks are vulnerable to traffickers ready to exploit the crisis. 

Women forced to flee their homes also often struggle to access critical reproductive health care and pre and post-natal care, which are typically limited in crisis situations.

Children forced to flee Ukraine have had their lives uprooted, education interrupted and are in some cases have even been separated from their families.

One mother’s story about fleeing Ukraine with her children

A mom stands with her young daughter -- together they pet a black dog who sits beside them.
Maria waits for transportation with her daughter, Daryna, and their dog, Tyson. “It was time to leave. I was also concerned about my child. I wanted her to stay alive, that no bombs would fall on us," said Maria.
Photo: Andrew Oberstadt for IRC

How does the war in Ukraine affect the rest of the world?

The war in Ukraine has an obvious impact on those within the country. Outside of Ukraine, the war also continues to have a major effect on the global markets and food supply. The impact of the armed conflict on grain exports has worsened a global hunger crisis, with catastrophic impacts throughout the world.

Why is Ukraine grain so important?

Ukraine is historically a large exporter of grain. In 2021, Ukrainian grain fed 400 million people around the world. For the first 5 months of the war, Ukraine was unable to export its grain through its primary shipping routes through the Black Sea.

Countries reliant on this grain suffered as a consequence. Several grain-receiving countries across the Middle East and Africa were already experiencing hunger crises due to conflict and climate change. The war in Ukraine made these hunger crises worse.

What countries are impacted by the war in Ukraine?

The global repercussions of the war have had catastrophic impacts on countries already facing conflict and crises.

East Africaisexperiencing one of the worst droughts in recent decades, triggered by six consecutive below average rainy seasons, alongside the disruption in food supply caused by the war in Ukraine. Across the region, 22 million people don’t have access to sufficient food, and 1.5 million children are at a risk of life-threatening malnutrition.

An IRC doctor treats a one year old girl who sits on her mother's lap in a refugee camp in Kenya..
Dr. Sila, an IRC health manager, screens 1 year old Vanessa for signs of malnutrition at the Kakuma Refugee Camp in Kenya. The war in Ukraine has contributed to increasing rates of malnutrition in Kenya by limiting food supplies.
Photo: Patrick Meinhardt for the IRC

Decades of conflict and climate change have, over time, made the region uniquely vulnerable and dangerously reliant on important grains—with approximately 80% of East Africa's imported from Russia and Ukraine.

In the Middle East, the war in Ukraine has sent prices of wheat and fuel spiraling. Syrian refugees are among the hardest hit, as many do not have the incomes to cover the dramatically increased cost of living. Recently, the country has also been devastated by a powerful 7.8 earthquake.

A mother and her two children sit around a plate of herbs, working with them in some capacity. Besides the herbs and the family, the room is barren.
Swasan* is the main breadwinner of her family, displaced from their home in Aleppo, Syria. Rising food prices have made it harder for Swasan to provide enough food for her family.
Photo: Abdullah Hammam

In Central America, prices for staple foods like white maize are well above the five-year average. Together with climate change and ongoing insecurity, nearly 13 million people across the region face growing hunger.

What is the Ukraine grain deal?

Back in July, the U.N.-brokered grain deal paved the way for Ukraine to resume its exports—a crucial step in providing relief to a growing global hunger crisis. However, the grain deal expired in July, with Russia withdrawing from the agreement. If a full blockade is reinstated, 80 percent of grain imported from the region to the African continent could be halted, which risks holding global food security at ransom.

David Miliband, IRC’s president and CEO said, “The International Rescue Committee (IRC) is deeply alarmed at Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, putting the future of the grain exports from the region at risk—a decision which will be most painfully felt by the 349 million people around the world facing food insecurity today. From Ukraine to Somalia, IRC’s clients are facing the ripple effects on food and energy prices of 500 days of war. The expiration of the deal risks holding global food security at ransom.”

What needs to happen now?

Ending violence against civilians is one of the most important steps to help Ukrainians rebuild their lives. World leaders must ensure that international humanitarian law is upheld and that humanitarian actors are protected and maintain access to help those in need.

Eight Ukrainian refugees gather in a tent at the Medyka border crossing point in Poland. They all wear warm winter jackets.
Ukrainian refugees gather at the Medyka border crossing point in Poland.
Photo: Francesco Pistilli for IRC

The world must also continue to support both the people who fled Ukraine and the millions of refugees and displaced people worldwide. While there has rightly been an outpouring of global support for people fleeing Ukraine, equal empathy must be shown for refugees and displaced people in many other crises around the world including Afghanistan, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Syria.

To address the hunger crises hitting East Africa and other regions, donors should urgently channel funding to front line responders who can reach those most in need and deliver the health programming, food and cash assistance, and clean water that people need to survive.

What is the IRC doing to help?

The IRC is continuing to scale up its response efforts in Ukraine, Poland, Moldova and other parts of Europe to meet the evolving needs of displaced families. This includes:

We are assisting Ukrainian refugees in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Bulgaria, as well as in Germany, Italy, Greece and the UKWe are also supporting resettled families in the US.

Learn more about the IRC's emergency response in Ukraine and Poland.

How can I help Ukraine?

Donate now: Your gift will help us continue to provide lifesaving support services to families whose lives are shattered by conflict and crises around the world.

*Name changed for privacy.