A young Ukrainian girl is sitting on a suitcase, looking down at her hands. She is wearing a pink coat and pink mittens.
Agata (5) at the Medyka Poland/Ukraine border crossing; Agata and her mother are waiting for a family member to pick them up. Photo: Becky Bakr Abdulla/NRC

Growing humanitarian crisis

Published 18. Mar 2022
A perfect storm of hostilities, scarce necessities, and frigid temperatures is now plaguing millions of Ukrainians. As many remain trapped under constant attack, with little possibility to flee, the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is working hard to address one of the biggest displacement crises of this century.

Within the first week of March, more than one million Ukrainians fled to bordering countries, including Poland, Romania, and Moldova.

“There are now more than two million refugees in neighboring countries, and we’re only in the second week of the fighting. We have seldom if ever before seen so many people fleeing one nation at the same time,” said Jan Egeland, Secretary-General of the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), at the start of the crisis.

Between four and seven million people are likely to flee from Ukraine if the war with Russia continues, and many more will urgently require assistance within the country and across neighboring borders. Many find themselves trapped in Ukraine and are repeatedly displaced due to frequent air-raids.

"Our staff in eastern Ukraine have spent many days and nights in cold, dark bomb shelters. They tell us that the local shops and markets are empty, and that basic necessities such as food and water are in short supply," says Ganna Dudinska, NRC’s Ukraine Advocacy Manager.

“[We] have received many calls via NRC’s hotline about the lack of food, diapers, and water,” says Ana Povrzenic, NRC’s Ukraine Country Director.

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Refugees arriving at the Medyka Poland/Ukraine border crossing Photo: Becky Bakr Abdulla/NRC


Seeking safety

Cities in western Ukraine, like Lviv and Uzhgorod, have become transit points. Humanitarian agencies have set up tents next to train stations to assist displaced people and those heading abroad.

Dorohusk Poland/Ukraine border crossing; photo is taken from the train station in the town Przemysl Photo: Becky Bakr Abdulla/NRC

Most of the people fleeing abroad are women and children who are forced to separate from their husbands, fathers, and brothers. Many are elderly and living with disabilities.

Valeria (35) and NRC's Becky Bakr Abdulla at the Medyka border crossing. Photo: NRC

Julia fled from Ukraine with her ailing mother. They fled bombs and attacks just hours after her mother had undergone surgery. “We don’t have a plan. We just left as quickly as we could. I am the only breadwinner in the family, and I have to get a job somehow,” Julia says. She worries about her aunt and five cousins whom they left behind.

NRC will support Ukraine for the long haul

“We are extremely disappointed that there was no agreement on a general humanitarian ceasefire because we really need a pause in the intense fighting to be able to resume humanitarian work. We cannot save lives under a hail of bombs and grenades,” says Egeland.

“Now that conditions allow, we have begun to provide emergency aid – both directly and through local partners. This includes large-scale cash distributions, food, shelter and water/sanitation support, and critical information and legal aid services. NRC has specially trained aid workers for war and crisis areas. “They are specially trained and have extensive experience of helping women, children, the elderly, and others in a crisis situation,” Egeland continues.

Dorohusk Ukraine/Polish border; at the reception site, many Polish local organizations and volunteers have gathered to provide warm food, water, and other supplies to exhausted Ukrainian refugees. Refugees are crossing through different border points into Poland. Photo: Becky Bakr Abdulla/NRC

Additionally, NRC has established bases in Poland, Moldova, and Romania to help support the millions of refugees and initiate cross-border operations to get essential supplies into Ukraine.

NRC promises to continue to advocate on behalf of the civilian population and highlight the need for protection and humanitarian access. NRC has launched a humanitarian response plan to aid 800,000 people in Ukraine, and neighboring countries of Poland, Romania, and Moldova displaced due to the hostilities.

“This is the fastest-growing displacement crisis I have witnessed in my 35 years as a humanitarian worker, and it is urgent to get assistance quickly into the worst affected areas,” Egeland says.

NRC has been in Ukraine since 2014. We have assisted over 700,000 Ukrainians with food, shelter, water, sanitation, and legal aid. With your help, we will reach even more.