London, UK, March 7, 2022 — The International Rescue Committee (IRC) warns that of the over 1.5 million refugees that have fled Ukraine since the Russian invasion, the vast majority are women and children at grave risk of violence, exploitation and abuse. The speed of displacement seen in this crisis is unprecedented. We have not seen displacement taking place at such a pace since the Rohingya crisis. As the numbers of displaced people grow daily, the UN warns that up to 5 million people could flee the country - making this the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since World War II. In crisis settings, women and girls face particular and disproportionate risks – including of violence, exploitation and abuse - during conflict and displacement. Women and girls fleeing Ukraine will be no different.
The IRC UK is a member of the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC), currently raising funds for the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. The funds donated will support DEC member charities working in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to meet the immediate needs of all people fleeing with food, water, medical assistance, protection and trauma care, including women and girls, who are disproportionately affected by conflict.
Lani Fortier, Director of Delivery in Emergencies at the IRC, said,
“We are extremely concerned for the safety and security of women and children who have been forced to flee their homes. In addition to the over 1.5 million people who have fled from Ukraine since the Russian invasion, there were already nearly 1.5 million people before last week - two-thirds who are women and children - that had become displaced within the country since the start of conflict in eastern Ukraine and the annexation of Crimea in 2014.
“Women and girls, especially those traveling alone from and in Ukraine, could be at risk of exploitation and abuse, including sexual violence, gender-based violence, and trafficking. The lack or disruption of essential services, such as emergency medical services, health care, and social services, puts women and girls at a greater risk of adverse health outcomes. An estimated 80,000 women will give birth in the next three months in Ukraine – many of them without access to critical maternal health care if the crisis continues to shut down essential services. For some, childbirth will be a life-threatening rather than a life-changing experience.
"The IRC is calling for international donors and leaders to prioritise the support and protection services of women and girls. This means listening to Ukrainian women and girls themselves, and including women’s rights organisations in all affected countries in coordinating and implementing the humanitarian response, so that we ensure the particular needs of women and girls are taken into account from the very outset of this emergency. It is imperative that safe and regular pathways are opened for all those seeking safety, regardless of their race, nationality, gender and religion. In Poland, where over 885,000 refugees have arrived since the 24 February, the IRC is working with partners to scale up services for the protection of women and children."
The International Rescue Committee responds to the world’s worst humanitarian crises, helping to restore health, safety, education, economic wellbeing, and power to people devastated by conflict and disaster. Founded in 1933 at the call of Albert Einstein, the IRC is at work in over 40 countries and 29 U.S. cities helping people to survive, reclaim control of their future and strengthen their communities. Learn more at www.rescue-uk.org and follow the IRC on Twitter & Facebook.