As conflict in Ukraine continues to rage, the Red Cross is committed to providing lifesaving aid to those in need — both in the country and in neighboring areas. Of the more than 12 million people who have been displaced by this conflict, an estimated 8 million are still inside the country and in need of urgent life-saving assistance. The Red Cross has reached 1 in 10 people impacted by this crisis and is committed to assisting the most vulnerable.
More than just delivering aid, the Red Cross is committed to ensuring the safety of those who remain in Ukraine and are living under dire circumstances. In early May, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) teams completed three safe passage operations evacuating more than 500 civilians from the Mariupol areas. After weeks of living largely underground with dwindling food, water and medicine, the situation for these civilians was dire. Since March, the ICRC has helped facilitate the safe passage of more than 10,000 civilians from Sumy and Mariupol to other locations in Ukraine.
"We are relieved that we could help evacuate more civilians from Azovstal and the Mariupol area and bring them to a safer place," said Pascal Hundt, the head of delegation for the ICRC in Ukraine. "The humanitarian convoy is a life-changing moment and major relief for these people who have suffered the horrors of close combat for too many weeks. They have all endured a level of horror no human should have to go through."
In Ukraine: Aid Amidst the Violence
Under mortal danger to themselves, Ukrainian Red Cross teams are working tirelessly to help people and communities impacted by conflict. There are nearly 8 million people displaced within Ukraine, with millions more living in active conflict zones who are facing a loss of electricity, difficulty accessing drinking water and severe shortages of medicines and available medical assistance.
Within the country, more than 200 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed. Many pharmacies are closed, stocks of medicines are low, at least 73 health care workers have died, and many have left, leaving people without access to health care and critical medicines needed. The lack of income and the disruption in financial services are also contributing to the rise in the need for basic necessities. The food security situation continues to deteriorate as well. Immediate food needs are reported in conflict-affected areas and in areas hosting internally displaced people. The disruption in food production and delivery challenges due to access constraints continue to drive up the need.
Damaged roads have disrupted supply chains, leaving communities cut off from food and basic supplies. Today, many civilians are taking the life-and-death decision to flee when there is no ceasefire or other agreements in place that would allow them to leave safely. The ICRC remains committed to the safe passage of these civilians.
Over 6 million have fled the country since the beginning of the conflict — 1.3 million of which have reportedly returned to Ukraine. From available information, many returnees to Ukraine are not considered permanent. A significant portion of those returning are going back and forth across the border to check on family members or assess the safety or state of their homes. The Red Cross is committed to providing support to those who make these journeys now, and in the months to come.
Around the clock, Red Cross teams continue providing emergency aid amid fear and uncertainty to the people of Ukraine. Since the conflict intensified in late February, the Red Cross has done the following:
- Distributed more than two tons of emergency aid, including food, bedding, tents, water and hygiene items to more than 400,000 people across Ukraine.
- Supported the evacuation of over 79,000 people from the towns of Energodar, Sumy, Kviy, Kharkiv and Kherson regions.
- Provided first aid training to more than 46,000 people across the country.
- Assisted with the evacuation of people with disabilities.
- Distributed lifesaving medical supplies, including 2.5 tons of insulin, enough for 6,500 people in Odessa for six months and 9,000 people in Dnipro for three months.
- Supported logistics pipelines into Ukraine to ensure critical items can be delivered.
Red Cross volunteers will continue to increase their work reuniting separated families, providing food and other household items and increasing awareness about areas contaminated by unexploded ordnance. The current needs are tremendous, critical among them include water delivery, support to health facilities and medical care for wounded families.
In Neighboring Countries: Help for Those Fleeing their Homes
More than 6.1 million people have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine to neighboring countries. It's a heartbreaking situation as many leave loved ones, pets and essentials behind. Every day, more than 42,000 Red Cross workers continue to roll up their sleeves to help. In Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Russia and Slovakia as well as secondary countries including Lithuania, Czech Republic, Germany, Spain, Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina and beyond, Red Cross volunteers are supporting displaced people. Trucks and planes loaded with goods are arriving regularly to provide critical items for those in need.
As those fleeing violence leave their homes, they are in dire need of assistance. The Red Cross is committed to helping them and to ensuring the protection of those most vulnerable. Across Europe, shelter needs are dynamic. While many refugees have been taken in by host families or relatives/friends in neighboring countries, more have found refuge in accommodation centers. At these centers, the need for improved sanitation, personal care items and hygiene items remains a high priority.
As people lose their primary sources of income, face unpredictable futures and struggle to meet basic needs, the need for financial assistance is high. The IFRC has begun its largest ever rollout of emergency cash assistance to people in need. Cash assistance is a fast, efficient and dignified way to provide humanitarian assistance to those who so desperately need it. It enables people to purchase items specific to their individual needs, supports local economies and helps people recover from traumatic events as they take an active role in decision making.
Additionally, Red Cross teams from across eastern Europe have done the following:
- Distributing food, water, clothing, bedding, hygiene sets, blankets and even handing out SIM cards so that families can stay connected amid the turmoil.
- Providing medical care at border crossings.
- Supplying baby products and services for children.
- Pitching tents and preparing shelters for refugees who need a comforting place to sleep and feel safe.
- Providing health-related services and medical support to those in need.
- Providing psychosocial support for those who are physically, mentally and emotionally stressed.
- Helping connect people to other essential services.
Role of the American Red Cross
For its part, the American Red Cross has contributed $44.3 million dollars to Ukraine crisis relief efforts. This includes $40.3 million dollars to the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to support the most vital humanitarian needs of those affected, including food, shelter, critical care items and first aid. The American Red Cross has also contributed $2 million dollars to the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to support their life-saving efforts within Ukraine and contributed $2 million dollars to the Danish Red Cross to provide food and non-perishable food items, first aid kits, blankets and hygiene kits to people displaced within Ukraine.
The American Red Cross has also deployed several international crisis responders to Poland, Moldova, Hungary and Romania to provide humanitarian relief in support of the international Red Cross operation helping families who fled their homes. These highly trained crisis responders—who are lending skills such as information management, cash assistance programming, GIS systems, communications and crisis leadership — are supporting on-the-ground relief efforts alongside local teams, including the Polish Red Cross, Moldovan Red Cross and Romanian Red Cross.
Additionally, in line with its work supporting military families, the American Red Cross has sent trained staff to Europe to support emergency communication needs of U.S. military members, so they can stay in touch with family members back home. The Red Cross Hero Care Network is a Congressionally-chartered program that connects service members and their families in times of need. Red Crossers are also distributing comfort kits, containing hygiene items and other necessities to service members and U.S. State Department staff.
At this time, the American Red Cross is not shipping blood products to Ukraine. The American Red Cross does not ship blood products outside the U.S. without a specific request from the U.S. Department of State, from the United Nations, or unless we have a request from affected Red Cross or Red Crescent societies abroad.
Can I Volunteer or Donate Goods?
In countries around the world, Red Cross and Red Crescent organizations have their own staff and volunteers who are trained to respond to large-scale disaster operations. The American Red Cross sends highly specialized and experienced professionals with technical skills and expertise abroad only after the Red Cross or Red Crescent team requests assistance. Those not already on the Red Cross’s international disaster roster will not have the opportunity to deploy at this time. We encourage you to connect with your local Red Cross chapter for future opportunities or to visit redcross.org/volunteer for more information.
While we are grateful for the outpouring of support, it’s important to know that neither the American Red Cross, nor our global Red Cross partners, are accepting the donation of in-kind goods such as food, clothing, blankets or toys at this time. These items can be difficult to manage on the ground and divert resources from our mission. Other charitable organizations are better suited to manage such donations.
International Humanitarian Law
ICRC called on authorities to adhere to international humanitarian law and to protect civilians and infrastructure delivering essential services, including power and water facilities, schools and hospitals. In Ukraine, over 200 health facilities and 1,635 educational facilities have been damaged or destroyed. Peter Maurer, president of the ICRC, requested protection for humanitarian action so that aid agencies can maintain access to civilians. ICRC has also called for parties to agree to terms so safe passage of civilians is possible.
Protecting Red Cross Workers
The Red Cross emblem is strictly regulated under humanitarian law. In armed conflict, it may be used by medical staff and facilities, including army medics and vehicles. It may also be used by Red Cross and Red Crescent workers, vehicles, facilities and the humanitarian relief they bring.
Resources for People Affected by the Conflict
- The ICRC has published a list of resources for people needing urgent help in Ukraine, including medical care, evacuation support, mental health support, shelter and safety tips.
- The IFRC Psychosocial Center also has resources for talking to children about war.
- For people fleeing the war in Ukraine, the European Union (EU) lists a comprehensive guide including rights when crossing the border into an EU country, eligibility for temporary protection and applying for international protection, as well as the rights of travel inside the European Union.
How to Find a Missing Loved One
If you are trying to locate or get in touch with a U.S. citizen, please contact the U.S. Department of State Overseas Citizens Services Office online or call 1-888-407-4747. However, if you are looking for a family member who is not a U.S. citizen but is located in either Ukraine or Russia, the Red Cross may be able to reconnect you through our Restoring Family Links program.
In neighboring countries where Ukrainians have fled, the Red Cross is distributing SIM cards for cell phones, so people can get in touch with their loved ones. Some family members have maintained contact with each other, but the situation is rapidly changing. As of now, most have maintained their own family connections via cell phones, but it is important to note that the telecommunication systems in the region have been affected. The ICRC and Ukraine Red Cross will continue to work together to help reconnect families, despite considerable challenges on the ground.
How can I learn more about the Red Cross response?
ICRC and IFRC have a comprehensive list of resources, including maps, press releases, videos, photos and stories, further expanding upon Red Cross efforts in the region. To learn more about the role of the American Red Cross in this crisis, visit redcross.org/ukraine.