• Of a survey of 520 people who have fled the conflict in Ukraine to Poland, the IRC found that 70% are concerned about finding work

  • Almost all respondents (93%) were women and 43% of all respondents identified shelter as their top concern, highlighting the need for safe housing options

  • 44% are concerned about access to cash to pay for basic needs like food and shelter

As the conflict in Ukraine forces four million refugees to flee their homes in little over a month, the IRC has carried out a humanitarian needs assessment in four major refugee-hosting cities in Poland, which is now hosting almost 2.5 million people.

Spanning, Warsaw, Lublin, Krakow and Wrocław, IRC teams surveyed 520 refugees who have fled the conflict and are currently settling in Poland. Nearly all of the respondents - 93% - were women*, many of whom have left family members behind in Ukraine.

Of those surveyed, 70% expressed concern about finding work as many have had their source of income from employment abruptly stopped because of the conflict, and have children or elderly relatives to care for. Meanwhile, 43% reported the need for shelter as a major concern; almost half of the respondents spent the previous night in the home of friends, family or volunteers, while 32% stayed in some form of government- or community-run shelter. Finally, the most commonly-noted need was for money, which would enable families to pay for accommodation, food and other essential supplies. 

Harlem Desir, IRC Senior Vice President for Europe, said,

“From the IRC’s assessment, it is clear that those who have fled Ukraine are living in a state of emergency. The fear of not being able to provide for your children or put a roof over their heads is beyond harrowing. 

“We are at the beginning of a long road to providing a robust welcome to those who have fled the conflict in Ukraine. The Polish government and civil society have done a thorough job of providing Ukrainian refugees with access to work, immediate shelter and provisions to help meet their basic needs. States across Europe have responded to rapidly growing protection needs in a spirit of responsibility-sharing, made clear commitments to receive and protect refugees and made funds available to receive people and meet their urgent needs. The Commission has acted with remarkable speed in coordinating this response. These expressions of intra-EU solidarity must continue, and countries neighbouring Ukraine need to make full use of this support. The only way forward is by mobilizing a pan-European solidarity response.”

From the IRC’s wealth of experience in the integration of refugees across Europe, we know how crucial these early days are to ensure Poland is supported to welcome the huge numbers of refugees. Systems must be equipped to absorb families into its schools, hospitals and labour market. Almost half of the people the IRC surveyed noted that they had a family member with them with current health needs, ranging from physical disabilities, to pregnancy. If Poland becomes overwhelmed then we could start to see some people missing out on urgently needed healthcare. Meanwhile, a lack of sustainable shelter or cash could lead to families being forced to turn to extreme measures of survival or being exposed to exploitation and abuse. 

“The IRC is working with the Polish government and local organisations to deliver urgently needed support across those areas identified in our assessment. Our teams are scaling up cash support for families in Poland to allow them to purchase what they need most, as well as supporting the training of social workers who can provide trauma counselling, and improving the infrastructure in shelters. This is the first step towards providing a sustained welcome to people who have fled the conflict in Ukraine, and we will stay as long as we are needed.”

To read the full IRC humanitarian needs assessment of refugees fleeing Ukraine to Poland, click here.

The IRC launched an immediate emergency response to the conflict in Ukraine and has been working with partners in Poland and Ukraine since February 2022. The IRC is supporting partners in Ukraine to provide evacuation services to people trapped by the conflict and deliver essential items to those forced to flee, including blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes, and cash assistance. In Poland, the IRC is working with partners to deliver cash assistance, provide critical information through an existing hotline, offering legal counseling and psychological support to people dealing with trauma. The IRC is also working to help people displaced by the conflict access essential services through social workers, interpreters and cultural assistants.