Jan Egeland visits recently damaged residential buildings in Kherson. Photo: Ed Prior/NRC

Ukraine: Millions face winter in damaged homes, under threat of air raids, beyond the reach of aid

Published 14. Nov 2023
Millions of civilians in Ukraine are living with the effects of over 600 days of brutal conflict. As winter conditions develop and needs multiply, once-thriving communities are at risk of disintegrating under an increasingly protracted conflict, warns the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).

Across eastern and southern Ukraine, millions of civilians are facing an increasingly uncertain and dangerous future as winter conditions set in. For over 600 days, an unyielding barrage of shelling has left an estimated 1.4 million homes in ruin or disrepair. Thousands of families have been forced to flee, or have been left to shelter in damaged buildings lacking basic services. Millions remain out of reach of aid in Russian controlled areas. As temperatures drop and public services come under increasing pressure, at least 2.5 million people need vital humanitarian assistance to support them through winter.

“Millions of families are facing a growing winter nightmare here,” explained Jan Egeland, NRC Secretary General, on a visit to Ukraine this week. “The physical impact of aerial bombardment can be seen right across the towns and cities I have visited. And the mental impact on those who remain under this ever-present threat is just as striking. People have told me about the horror of watching their communities transformed into sites of destruction or battlegrounds.

“While glimpses of stability emerge in pockets of the country, the humanitarian landscape in the east and south remains bleak and is defined by relentless hostilities and fighting along the frontlines. We are deeply concerned for the future of those millions who are already dependent on support, given that winter has barely begun.”

In the 20 months since the escalation of the conflict, Russia has fired thousands of drones and missiles on Ukrainian cities and settlements. Hundreds have been used to destroy civilian infrastructure relating to transport, heating, and electricity. Port facilities in the south have continued to be targeted since the end of the Black Sea Grain Deal, with over 30 attacks since July. Today, more than 17 million people are affected as a result of these attacks, at a point in the year at which needs greatly increase. 

Despite a significant humanitarian effort, large swaths of Ukraine are under the control of the Russian Federation and remain largely out of reach of international aid. Ongoing hostilities also continue to hamper the delivery of assistance. Security concerns impede the delivery of urgent assistance to more than 4 million people who live in the areas beyond the control of the Government of Ukraine. “The information we receive through partners and colleagues paints a picture of appalling conditions facing those beyond the reach of humanitarian workers. It is more urgent than ever that all parties ensure that civilian populations can be reached by humanitarian aid,” said Egeland.

“I call upon all parties involved to ensure the unimpeded and timely delivery of humanitarian assistance to all affected areas, regardless of their control. It is our moral duty to extend a lifeline to those in dire need and to work resolutely toward sustainable solutions that can bring an end to the suffering endured by the Ukrainian citizens residing in conflict-affected communities. 

“Swift and decisive action is imperative to prevent this crisis from deepening, in the name of these communities and the future of those who have already endured so much.”

Notes to editors:

For more information or to arrange an interview, please contact:

  • NRC global media hotline: media@nrc.no, +47 905 62329
  • Ed Prior, Media Adviser to the Secretary General, currently in Ukraine with Jan Egeland, ed.prior@nrc.no, +47 902 94 379