As conflict continues to escalate across Ukraine and cities in locations in the eastern regions of Kharkiv and Kherson fall back under Ukrainian control, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that winter will be especially hard for civilians as the full extent of damage is assessed.

Thousands of residential buildings have been destroyed since 24th February, alongside schools, health centres and community buildings. This collapse in infrastructure has meant that millions of people are at risk of losing access to electricity and water supplies, as well as vital shelter. 

The IRC is scaling up its response in Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Donetsk oblasts, as heavy fighting and shifts in territorial control causes an increase in the number of internally displaced people across southern and eastern Ukraine. Our teams and partners are delivering cash support to families so they can purchase essential supplies, increasing capacities of health care facilities to cope with greater numbers of patients, providing protection services including psychological first aid, and scaling up preparation for winter to ensure that people are prepared for the drop in temperatures and harsh weather conditions. 

Meanwhile, the IRC is preparing assessments in Kharkiv and Mykolaiv to identify immediate needs and prepare a timely and coordinated response to the increase in number of those internally displaced. 

Marysia Zapasnik, IRC Ukraine Director, said,

“Ongoing hostilities are having grave consequences for families living across southern and eastern Ukraine, and our teams are desperately worried that the destruction will spell disaster as winter draws closer. As large-scale damage of residential buildings and civilian infrastructure in areas such as Kharkiv, Kherson and Mykolaiv causes an increase in internally displaced populations , systems and infrastructure in oblasts receiving people seeking safety are being strained more than ever before.

“Some 17.7 million Ukrainians are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance, partly due to damaged infrastructure, and millions more are living in homes damaged by conflict. IRC teams are continuing to work around the clock to make sure our teams and partners in the southern and eastern parts of Ukraine are able to respond to the increase in humanitarian needs that will come with a harsh winter. We are most fearful for the internally displaced people who are seeking shelter and safety in buildings ill-suited to providing sufficient protection from a sudden drop in temperature and heavy snowfall that will come with the winter months.

“The humanitarian needs of those who remain in Ukraine - as well as those who have fled - will outlast the conflict. This apparent break in the deadlock is a critical moment for the future of the conflict, and it is crucial that the international community continues to apply diplomatic pressure on all warring parties to bring about a political settlement and an end to the violence. Meanwhile, the world must maintain the investment in humanitarian relief services so that organisations like the IRC can continue to reach those most in need.”

The IRC launched an emergency response to the Ukraine Crisis in February 2022 and has been working directly and with local partners to reach those most in need. We are in Poland, Ukraine and Moldova, delivering vital services such as cash assistance, mental health support, and safe healing and learning spaces for children.