It has been one year since escalation of the conflict in Ukraine began and, in that time, thousands of civilians have either been killed, injured or displaced. Nearly 8 million people - mostly women and children - have escaped, leaving everything behind, with more continuing to flee Ukraine every single day.
Frequent power outages have made the winter temperatures unbearable and add another layer of danger. There is no end to the conflict in sight one year since it began, and the damage to infrastructure, ranging from homes to schools, hospitals and roads, is so great it will take years, if not decades, to rebuild. More than 2,500 educational facilities and 700 health facilities have been damaged or destroyed. The American Red Cross and the global Red Cross Red Crescent network have worked around the clock to deliver aid and address the needs of people affected by this devastating crisis.
As the conflict continues, the global Red Cross Red Crescent network is committed to providing long-term support to individuals and families suffering from the traumatic effects of ongoing violence and displacement. Teams have provided essential humanitarian aid items; health care services, including mental health services; emergency cash and voucher assistance; water and sanitation services; as well as assistance with voluntary evacuations from conflict-ravaged communities.
See more about how the global Red Cross Red Crescent network has been helping during the Ukraine Crisis in this video.
Many of the people who have fled their homes are unsure what to do next. The numbers are staggering— nearly 6 million people are displaced inside Ukraine. The residual effects of the fighting—including mental health challenges, wage losses and family separation—have impacts both on those who remain and those who have fled.
The empowering effect of Red Cross cash assistance
“No one deserves a war,” said Maryna Sereda, a 41-year-old Ukrainian refugee inside her apartment in Chisinau, Moldova. Maryna has spent most of the last year living less than sixty miles from her native Ukraine, but in what feels like a world away to her.
Maryna is living with her mother and three young children, including a six-month-old boy born in Moldova, in a small apartment that belongs to relatives of her husband. The apartment had not been lived in since 1992 and Maryna had to spend her family’s savings to get the heating to work again. They own a small business that actually makes and sells parts for heating equipment so her husband has stayed behind in Ukraine as that is their source of income.
Thanks to the generous support of Red Cross donors, families like Maryna’s have received cash assistance. Maryna recently received 300 euros, about $320 US dollars. Maryna was able to buy fresh fruits, vegetables, milk, eggs and other products, but also small New Year’s gifts. Her 10-year-old daughter, Solomia, is a talented young illustrator, and Maryna surprised her with a beautiful box of markers. For Maryna, being able to buy fresh fruit and vegetables is paramount because most organizations provide non-perishable, canned food items, which Maryna said are not the best nutrition sources for growing children.
The American Red Cross has deployed 28 international crisis responders to Moldova, Hungary, Poland, and Romania to support the international Red Cross operation helping families like Maryna’s. These highly trained crisis responders — who are lending expertise in areas such as cash assistance programming— are assisting on-the-ground relief efforts alongside local teams.
As one of the technical leads for cash assistance programs within the Red Cross network, the American Red Cross has played a critical role developing a multi-country cash assistance program which has granted people displaced by this crisis with cash as they settle into their new lives in other countries.
American Red Crosser Kanhong Lin, currently based in Hungary, designed an app that allows displaced Ukrainians to apply for Red Cross cash assistance from their cell phones. Previously, people needing cash assistance would need to make an appointment and go to a Red Cross office. The app makes the process much more seamless and convenient for those who have access to smart phones, which most Ukrainians do.
Cash assistance also gives beneficiaries a sense of control as they can decide how to best spend it, protecting their human dignity. It’s one of the few decisions they can be in control of in the middle of fleeing from conflict, according to Lin. Beneficiaries have been able to apply in two rounds so far, one when the conflict first began and most recently at the start of winter.
American donations have contributed to some 1.2 million people through the International Federation of Red Cross Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) cash assistance program. The global Red Cross network has provided nearly $216 million in cash assistance.
The global Red Cross network has provided basic assistance to more than 14 million people and provided health services and interventions to more than 1.1 million people. Red Cross teams have also assisted more than 1.8 million people with access to emergency shelter and helped more than 800,000 people with migration support. The global Red Cross network also has improved access to water for nearly 11 million people in Ukraine.
American Red Cross supports different forms of relief
American Red Cross support also helps to fund other relief efforts. In Romania, an American Red Cross delegation recently had a chance to see the life-changing work the Romanian Red Cross is doing to alleviate human suffering, thanks in part to support from the American Red Cross. In Romania, the local Red Cross runs humanitarian concept stores, which provide Ukrainian refugees with free food, clothing and other products every ten days. In Bucharest, Xenia Melnyk, a Ukrainian refugee, runs the store. She owned a children’s clothing shop in Ukraine and stayed in Ukraine for a week after the war started, until the house next door was bombed. As she shielded her son with her body, her son begged her to leave Ukraine. Once it was safe to do so, she packed some belongings and was out the door in fifteen minutes.
Once Xenia arrived in Romania, she began driving about 30 miles each way to volunteer with the Red Cross. Six months ago, the Romanian Red Cross hired her to run the store. At the Romanian Red Cross national headquarters, Ukrainian women answer phone calls all day from Ukrainian refugees seeking cash assistance or other kinds of support. Most of these Ukrainian Red Crossers in Romania speak English and thus serve as a conduit between Ukrainians and the Romanian Red Cross.
More On the Role of the American Red Cross
Bringing much-needed aid to people affected by this destructive conflict is a team effort, and the American Red Cross is working in close collaboration with partners in the global Red Cross Red Crescent network and other organizations to get help where it is needed most.
“At the one-year mark since this crisis began, the American Red Cross is as committed as ever in assisting with critical relief efforts, both in Ukraine and in impacted countries in the region,” said Koby Langley, Senior Vice President, Service to the Armed Forces and International Services for the American Red Cross. “With no end in sight, we will continue to work with our respective national societies, the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and other partners in the region to deliver aid to affected individuals and families.”
Thanks to our compassionate donors, as of February 24, 2023, the American Red Cross has raised $148.1 million to support relief for people affected by the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine. In the first year of this response, the American Red Cross has already spent or made commitments to spend $101.5 million to help meet to the humanitarian needs generated by this crisis. This includes $62 million to the IFRC to support some of the most urgent needs of affected residents and displaced families, including food, shelter, critical care items, cash assistance and first aid.
The American Red Cross has also contributed $2 million to the ICRC to support lifesaving assistance within Ukraine, $8.9 million to the Danish Red Cross to help provide food and non-perishable food items, first aid kits, blankets and hygiene kits to people displaced within Ukraine, and $6 million to feeding partner World Central Kitchen to provide meals for those in Ukraine and surrounding countries.
Finally, the American Red Cross has also sent 89 trained staff across ten locations in Europe to support emergency communications and morale activities for U.S. military members and their families. Our teams have handled more than 50,000 emergency communications calls from service members and their families, provided comfort to more than 146,000 people and distributed more than 350,000 care items, including hygiene items and other necessities to deployed service members.
As the conflict continues and families navigate their next steps, the Red Cross will be there to meet the needs of those who need it most. To learn more about the global Red Cross and Red Crescent humanitarian network, and how we are working together to help people facing the devastating impacts of this crisis, please visit redcross.org/Ukraine.