Since 24 February 2022, Ukraine has been under attack by Russia, resulting in an immense humanitarian crisis. Cities have been bombed, livelihoods destroyed and fighting continues with no end in sight. The conflict has triggered the world’s fastest-growing displacement crisis since World War II. More than a quarter of Ukraine’s population has fled their homes: an estimated 7.1 million people are now internally displaced, mostly in western, central and eastern Ukraine, while 6.8 million have left the country. It must be assumed that the humanitarian emergency will continue for many months and that reconstruction will take years.
THE SCARS OF WAR
Witnesses to the war have been left with visible and invisible scars. Psychological and physical violence as well as abuse have increased considerably. Most of those affected are severely traumatised by what they have experienced. 64 per cent of the displaced are women, many of whom have left behind their husbands and other family members. There are reports of many forms of violence against women, with insecurity and risk particularly high for women and girls fleeing – at border crossings, in collective shelters and in bomb shelters. There are reports of violence, sexual exploitation and trafficking. Sexual violence in conflict is not only a serious human rights violation, but can also have significant physical and psychological consequences, such as unwanted pregnancies, sexually transmitted diseases, infertility, as well as anxiety, depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.
While most men serve in the armed forces, women and older people now have fewer earning opportunities. As a result, they lack the means to meet their basic needs such as food, clothing, medicine or hygiene items. Conditions are worsening due to electricity, gas and water cuts, and the need for humanitarian aid is increasing. The war has also devastated Ukraine’s economy. Economic losses due to the ongoing military offensive could amount to more than a trillion dollars, about 64 percent of the Ukrainian workforce has lost their jobs since the war began.
Against this backdrop, Solidar Suisse is working with two Ukrainian organisations, Vostok SOS and VIS, to provide humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in the western and central parts of the country. Internally displaced people receive comprehensive counselling and empowerment through psychosocial counselling. Safe Spaces are being set up in urban areas and mobile outreach teams are visiting people in rural areas to provide counselling. In addition, we are developing modalities for cash payments and in-kind assistance.