IRC condemns attack on maternity hospital in Vilniansk

  • An attack on a maternity hospital in Vilniansk, Ukraine, cost the life of a newborn baby, according to official reports.
  • “The tragic images of rescuers working at the site of a maternity ward illustrate that women and children continue to pay the highest price for this war,” said Bob Kitchen, the IRC’s vice president for emergencies.
  • The IRC reiterates that health facilities are protected under international law and should be safe havens in times of crisis and conflict.
  • Critical civilian infrastructure is being damaged every day in Ukraine—a particularly worrying development in light of the upcoming winter.
Read our November 23 statement

Ukraine crisis briefing

Millions of people have been uprooted from their homes in Ukraine and are need of humanitarian assistance, in what has become the largest and fastest displacement crisis since World War II. Of these, over 6 million have fled to neighboring countries as refugees and millions more people displaced within Ukraine are also in need of urgent humanitarian assistance. Many are stranded or are unable to leave Ukraine due to increasing violence, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation.

What caused the current crisis in Ukraine?

On February 24, 2022, Russia deployed its military into neighboring Ukraine. Bombs and shelling continue to escalate, damaging homes, hospitals, schools and other civilian infrastructure.

Some 6.5 million people have now been displaced inside Ukraine, while almost 3.5 million have fled to neighboring countries to seek safety.

Ukraine, which became an independent country in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been working to forge closer ties with the European Union and with NATO. Russia regards these efforts as an economic and strategic threat to its own security.

This escalation in tensions comes on top of an existing humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. In 2014, Russia invaded and then annexed the Crimean Peninsula and began backing pro-Russian separatists in parts of eastern Ukraine. Eight years of fighting have resulted in the deaths of over 3,000 people, forced more than 850,000 people from their homes, and left almost 3 million in need of aid.

Learn more about what's happening in Ukraine.

What are the main humanitarian challenges in Ukraine?

The Russia-Ukraine conflict may result in humanitarian suffering on a scale beyond what Europe has seen this century. The world is bearing witness to the deaths of innocent civilians, the destruction of vital infrastructure, and massive displacement within Ukraine and beyond.

As the attacks continue, people who remain in Ukraine are enduring the dangers of life under siege, even as they try to cope without adequate water, heat and electricity. Freezing temperatures are making conditions for those seeking shelter in basements and subway stations even more unbearable. And roads and bridges made impassible by bombs and shelling are hindering access to food and other basic necessities.

Millions of people in Ukraine have been uprooted from their homes, among them over 5.5 million who have fled to neighboring countries. The majority of those on the move are women and children, who are always most at risk of exploitation and abuse during crises.

The war has weakened Ukraine's infrastructure and sent the country's economy into drastic decline. Hospitals and ambulances have been attacked. The Ukrainian health system was already fragile, having been heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. Tens of thousands of women will give birth in the coming months in Ukraine—many of them without access to critical maternal health care if the crisis continues to shut down essential services.

The IRC's experience shows that when people are trapped and health and sanitation facilities are targeted, diseases like cholera spread and preventable deaths skyrocket.

Learn more about what people in Ukraine's besieged cities need.

Beyond Ukraine

The war will also have far-reaching humanitarian implications across Europe and the globe, destabilizing the continent, and straining the resources of Ukraine’s neighbors. It will also impact supplies of Ukrainian-grown wheat and other food staples for countries like Yemen, Libya and Lebanon that are already facing acute levels of food insecurity.

Read about three ways the conflict in Ukraine will drive up hunger in other crisis zones.

What is the situation for refugees from Ukraine?

Russia's invasion of Ukraine has already resulted in one of the largest refugee crises facing the world today as the war continues to force people—most of them women, girls and the elderly—to flee across borders to Poland, Moldova and other European states.

Over 5.5 million refugees have had to leave their homes in Ukraine since February 24, most of them seeking safety in Poland.

Huge numbers of people continue to arrive at Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova with only what they can carry. In many places there are long waits to cross and scant facilities waiting for them on the other side. Urgent needs include food, water, emergency shelter, health care and sanitation facilities, and protection and trauma counseling.

Women and girls, especially those traveling alone, could be at risk of exploitation and abuse, including sexual violence, gender-based violence and trafficking.

Learn more about what Ukrainian refugees are facing in Poland.


How is the IRC helping in Ukraine and neighboring countries?

In Ukraine, we are focusing our assistance in the areas most heavily affected by the conflict. Together with our local partners, we are:

  • Providing timely cash support to vulnerable families to enable them to cover their most basic needs, 
  • Distributing essential winter items such as blankets, sleeping bags and heaters to keep people warm,
  • Providing essential protection services, including the setting up of Safe Healing and Learning Spaces for children, gender-based violence services and women’s centres, and legal assistance for people whose homes have been damaged by air strikes,
  • Supporting overwhelmed health facilities with much needed supplies.

In addition, we are urgently scaling up our winter response. In areas most heavily affected by the conflict, especially in the east, temperatures are expected to drop to well below zero fahrenheit in the winter months.

The IRC is also on the ground in Poland working with local organizations to meet the needs of displaced families, many of whom are staying in shelters across the country. This includes:

  • Working with the Polish Forum for Migration to provide newly arrived refugees with information on their rights and available assistance, as well as in-person and remote mental health support from trained psychologists.
  • With our partner Norma, running Safe Healing and Learning Spaces across refugee shelters in Warsaw, which provide children and adolescents the space they need to recover from trauma. Providing cultural assistants and other support to help children integrate into classrooms.
  • Delivering multipurpose cash assistance to ensure refugees can buy food, medicine, clothing and other essentials. With the winter approaching, we are planning to top up the assistance for over 900 most vulnerable individuals.
  • With PCPM, connecting Ukrainian teachers with jobs in Poland and delivering cash support to ensure their salaries, ensuring they can teach in schools where Ukrainian language skills are most needed.  
  • With our partner Migam, providing sign language translation for Deaf people forced to flee Ukraine. 
  • With our partner Feminoteka, continuing to support women affected by the war in Ukraine to find a safe haven in a carefully curated shelter.
  • A grant by and a Fellowship team which is helping the IRC support United for Ukraine, an information portal and civil society effort that helps displaced people find access to critical services. The initiative is part of the IRC’s Signpost Project, a global humanitarian technology program operating in 15 countries that helps refugees find resources to meet their urgent needs.

In Moldova, we are working with local partners to assist Ukrainian refugees by supporting their education, health, safety, access to legal information and economic well-being. This includes:

  • Assisting children to integrate into local schools; ensuring access to Healing Classrooms, tutoring services and community-led and after-school activities.
  • Providing referrals for medical services, supply connections, vouchers for services, support, and knowledge to displaced people in need of medical or health assistance.
  • Addressing immediate protection concerns and ensuring people are safe accessing the services in Moldova – this includes running safe spaces for displaced women, children, and families.
  • Providing mental health and psychosocial support.

Responding along the entire arc of the crisis, we are assisting Ukrainian refugees in Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Bulgaria, as well as in Germany, Italy, Greece and the UK.

Learn more about the IRC's Ukraine response and how we respond to emergencies.

Download our Ukraine crisis resource FAQ sheet for people affected by the conflict who are seeking assistance in Ukraine and neighboring countries.

See more Ukraine crisis information and resources.

Crisis in numbers

5.5 million

Since Feb. 24, more than 5.5 million people have been forced to flee Ukraine, seeking safety with what little they can carry and not knowing what will happen next.

refugees from Ukraine have fled the violence in their country.

Read some of their stories

3 million

Three million people have fled to Poland since Feb. 24, making this the fastest displacement crisis since the Second World War.

refugees have fled from Ukraine to neighboring Poland.

What Ukrainian refugees face in Poland

7 million

Increasing violence and destruction have stranded millions or left them unable to leave Ukraine. Information on where to find safety is scarce.

people are displaced inside Ukraine as violence continues.

What people trapped in Ukraine's besieged cities need