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Ukraine

Ukraine: Urgent action needed to protect civilians from effects of conflict

Nearly one month into the Ukraine crisis fighting continues to intensify and the number of civilian casualties mount across the country. The ongoing military offensive in Ukraine launched on 24 February, has so far caused more than 2,421 civilians casualties, including 925 killed, according to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). Actual figures are likely much higher as active fighting spreads across the country.

DRC Danish Refugee Council is part of the emergency response in Ukraine and scaling up capacity to meet rapidly increasing needs in the neighbouring countries where also DRC’s Secretary General, Charlotte Slente has witnessed the effects of the crisis:

“The situation for civilians in Ukraine is becoming increasingly desperate in some of the areas under continuous attack. Civilians are not and must not be a target, nor are civilian infrastructure, such as schools, hospitals, homes, water facilities and electricity lines. Efforts to ensure timely, safe humanitarian corridors for civilians to evacuate conflict areas as well as for the access of humanitarian services to reach civilians is imperative.”

Around 6.5 million people are estimated to be forcibly displaced within Ukraine, while around 3.3 million have fled the country since 24 February. In total, this means that by now almost one in four of the country’s population have been displaced. With the scale and direction of the ongoing conflict in Ukraine, 18 million people are projected to become affected, including up to 6.7 million people projected to be newly internally displaced (UN Flash Appeal 2022)

“There is an urgent need to scale up protection and humanitarian assistance to those who cannot or choose not to leave. There are growing needs for emergency protection assistance, legal aid, psycho-social support, multi-purpose cash and food assistance, basic shelter repair, vital heating systems and emergency explosive ordinance risk education,” says Charlotte Slente.

The scope and pace of the displacement across borders is putting an immense pressure on receiving countries. Adequate, coordinated and timely support to the countries neighboring Ukraine is critical in ensuring access to safety and protection for all those fleeing the conflict. 

Women, children, and the elderly make up the majority of those displaced across borders, creating specific needs, including protection from exploitation and trafficking risks. These needs, risks, and vulnerabilities must be considered in the humanitarian response efforts across the response.

All EU Member States must step up their capacity to receive people that have been forced to leave Ukraine and support the countries neighboring Ukraine as well as other countries receiving large numbers of refugees in a coordinated manner. The wave of solidarity that we have witnessed across Europe in the past weeks must translate into concrete contributions, including transfers in accordance with the needs of the host countries,” says Charlotte Slente.

To ensure that conflict- and displacement-affected people in Ukraine as well as in neigbouring countries and other host countrise are assisted in coping with the effects of the escalating conflict, DRC calls on States, donors, and the humanitarian community for attention to the following urgent priorities:

  1. Uphold the IHL principles of humanity, distinction, and proportionality and maintain and amplify diplomatic efforts.
  2. Condemn the use of cluster munitions, internationally banned weapons and calls on all parties to stop the use of explosive weapons with wide area effects in towns, cities, and other populated areas.
  3. Ensure rapid, unhindered, and principled humanitarian access to those, and for those, affected by the conflict.
  4. Scale up protection and humanitarian assistance to the affected population in Ukraine.
  5. Support countries neighboring Ukraine in ensuring access to safety and protection for all those fleeing the conflict, regardless of their origin or nationality.
  6. Mobilize support to host countries including through transfers and other solidarity mechanisms.

See full recommendations here

DRC statement available also in Ukranian  and Russian