Half of the residential building destroyed after a drone attack in Kyiv, 17 October 2022, killing at least four people. The building is located in the city centre of Kyiv and belonged to the objects of historical and architectural significance. Photo: Maria Dyrdenkova/NRC

Ukraine: Winter must not be used as a weapon of war

Published 20. Oct 2022
Attacks on civilian infrastructure needed for water, electricity and heating is increasing humanitarian needs and could further displace thousands across Ukraine and into neighbouring countries this winter.

“The recent escalation of attacks against civilians and infrastructure is leaving the most vulnerable in desperate conditions as winter starts to bite. As the weather worsens, people are going to face the desperate choice of staying where they are without basic needs or packing their bags and moving to somewhere else in Ukraine or into neighbouring countries,” said Carlo Gherardi, Regional Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) in Central and Eastern Europe.

“Attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop. Human suffering is being prolonged, and as temperatures continue to plummet, humanitarian needs will increase. All warring parties must respect international humanitarian law and ensure that civilian lives and civilian infrastructure are protected throughout this conflict. Winter must not be used as a weapon of war.”

According to Ukraine’s government, 30 per cent of its energy infrastructure has been hit since the intensified missile strikes since October 10, leading to electricity cuts and blackout plans.

“We are still working with our partners to provide critical relief items to people living in active conflict areas in the east, but we are now seeing increasing needs across the country due to widespread infrastructure damage, and it will only get worse. There needs to be concerted and coordinated efforts across the humanitarian and development sector if we are to get people back to their homes safely and enable them to stay. We cannot work on effective solutions for supporting displaced people while these attacks continue,” said Gherardi.

Lack of water, heat or shelter in Ukraine could force many to flee across the border into neighbouring Poland, Moldova and Romania, communities already hosting significant numbers of Ukrainian refugees, and themselves living through the European cost-of-living crisis.

In Poland, it is estimated that the number of new refugees from Ukraine could range from 500,000 to 750,000 before the end of the year, with half remaining in Poland while others move onwards to other European countries.

In Moldova 40,000 new refugee arrivals are expected over the winter, in addition to the 90,000 already present in a context where 70 per cent of refugees are hosted by local families. Whole community support is needed to upgrade poorly insulated houses and support access to heating systems and winter items. Temperatures are already below zero, placing the life of thousands of people at risk. Moldova is also dealing with 30 per cent inflation affecting the host community’s capacity to meet their own winter needs and to support refugees.