As Ukraine emerges from a cold winter season and the media headlines begin to fade, 18 million people need humanitarian assistance, while millions more are struggling to recover. With widespread explosive ordnance contamination, landmines are posing a deadly threat for civilians amidst continued fighting.The human cost of the war is starkly seen in the newly accessible areas, where the International Rescue Committee (IRC) have been focusing the humanitarian efforts since September 2022, responding to the most dire needs at the forefront of this armed conflict.

Bob Kitchen, IRC’s Vice President for Emergencies, said:

“As we are visiting remote areas in the region which have returned under the control of the Government of Ukraine, we witness harrowing images of destruction and talk to people who have lived for over a year without access to heating or electricity, sheltering in their basements when the crossfire came close to home. A family we saw in one of the villages yesterday was once faced with a heartbreaking choice - taking their bedridden mother underground where she may have died from cold, or hoping she would survive rounds of shelling in her own bed.

“While the media headlines are slowly fading away, cities like Kharkiv are still providing safe havens for people fleeing from the east of the country, while humanitarian actors still cannot reach people trapped behind active frontlines. It is critical to reestablish the right to aid across the country and not let the full-scale war slide into oblivion, as it happened when the conflict in Ukraine broke out in 2014 and the world’s attention quickly shifted elsewhere.

“With a potential spring offensive looming on the horizon, any further escalation of violence will inevitably cause further displacement and worsen acute humanitarian needs, especially in the east and southeast of the country.”

Harlem Désir, IRC’s Senior Vice President for Europe, added:

“To date, the cost of reconstruction and recovery in Ukraine is estimated at €383 billion. So far, robust international support has prevented the worst-case scenario from occurring in the country. But as I am meeting our teams and conflict-affected people in Kharkiv this week,  the personal stories I hear every day  are a testimony to the human cost of the war - and the price innocent people have been paying for years of hostilities. 

“With the Ukraine recovery conference approaching, donors must not forget that the war in Ukraine is far from over. The international community must step up to keep adequately supporting the humanitarian response alongside long-term rehabilitation efforts.

“Donors who will pledge in Italy on 26 April need to ensure that new funding goes directly to NGOs, local civil society and women-led organisations operating on the frontlines of the Ukraine response. 

“The unprecedented response to the Ukraine crisis a year ago demonstrates what the international community can accomplish when there is sufficient will. We call on donors to robustly support humanitarian responses around the world with equal generosity - and not to forget about the people who are still suffering at the frontlines of the war in Ukraine."