NRC Secretary General Jan Egeland meets with Lubov, who is in her early fifties. She lives in Hrakove, North East Ukraine, and spent 5 months under Russian control.

Winter is coming

Winters in Ukraine are amongst the harshest in Europe with biting winds and snow, and inhospitable temperatures often hitting -10 C.

The Norwegian Refugee Council’s (NRC) Secretary General Jan Egeland was in the country last week, witnessing first-hand the massive effort to help people forced to flee and hearing their stories.

Flee or freeze

“Right now, across the country, people are facing a grim choice: flee or freeze,” says Jan Egeland. “This week, I met families in Zaporizhzhia who fled for their lives from bombed-out basements through the only crossing point on the frontline. They were shelled as they crossed. From a one-month-old to a 91-year-old, they arrived cold and traumatised, but deeply relieved that they are now safe.”

Egeland emphasised that this is “a brutal conflict targeting the most vulnerable. Many civilians, including those who are sick, disabled or elderly, cannot or will not leave their homes under bleak weather conditions. They must not be forgotten and must receive aid and assistance before it’s too late.”

A race against the clock

Ahead of the expected brutally cold winter, NRC is racing against the clock to help provide food, fuel, water and shelter to thousands of people displaced by the ongoing conflict.

Recent missile strikes targeted vital power and water infrastructure and has made an already precarious situation even worse for these people.

Roman Momot, a coordinator for NRC’s work in Ukraine, spelled out the challenge: “There are thousands of people here lacking proper shelter against the elements, this is a huge logistical challenge.”

In this critical situation NRC is working closely with Ukrainian partner organisations to get aid to where it’s needed most but much more needs to be done and the clock is ticking.