An invisible emergency in Ukraine

Since March 2014, over a million people have been displaced by the conflict in Ukraine.


By Kyle O'Donoghue

UNICEF’s launches its Humanitarian Action for Children 2015 on 29 January. The global appeal highlights the situation of children and women living in some of the most challenges circumstances, the support required to help them survive and thrive, and the results UNICEF and its partners have achieved and are working towards. The 2015 appeal calls for US$3.1 billion to reach more than 60 million children in 71 countries, including Ukraine.

For more information about Ukraine's humanitarian appeal, visit

As fighting continues in eastern Ukraine and families flee for safety in growing numbers, UNICEF is working to assist people affected by conflict, especially children, who bear the greatest burden.

KHARKIV, Ukraine, 12 December 2014 – The streets of Kharkiv seem more crowded recently, as the influx of people from eastern Ukraine steadily carries on. Since the conflict began in March this year, more than a million people have fled their homes. Families with young children have been especially affected by the upheavals. As the most accessible safe city, Kharkiv has seen a surge in arrivals. Still, this growing emergency remains almost invisible.

© UNICEF Video
With support from European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), clean drinking water and hygiene kits will be provided for 60,000 people in the coming months.

“I just want everything to calm down, so I can go home,” says a mother of two who is waiting in a temporary shelter while trying to find a place to live in Kharkiv.

Her 6-year-old daughter doesn't understand what is happening or why they can't go home.

“I told my father don't worry. We'll be back soon, and I will see him again,” she says.

A mere four hours’ drive away, the fighting continues, despite a fragile ceasefire. Those who have fled tell stories of distress, loss or hiding in bunkers for weeks at a time during heavy shelling. A breakdown in basic services has further fueled displacement.

It is a steadily growing crisis, with more than 500 new arrivals registered daily. On one November day alone, 5,800 people were registered as internally displaced persons. Amidst the uncertainty of what the harsh Ukrainian winter will bring to the conflict-affected regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, many people are making the choice to flee. There are, however, many others without the resources to leave the conflict zone.

Children at risk

Children are most heavily affected by the crisis. They suffer psychologically, face disrupted schooling and are at risk of various diseases as a result of poor hygiene. The shelling has damaged water supply systems, which now deliver water unfit for human consumption.

UNICEF is providing safe drinking water and hygiene supplies with support from European Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO). Clean drinking water and hygiene kits will be provided for 60,000 people in the coming months.

In addition, UNICEF is providing psychosocial support to displaced families. To meet the growing need, UNICEF is conducting training for 400 school psychologists and social workers to provide help to those arriving every day.

It is a rapidly evolving crisis whose full scale will only become evident in the coming months. In the meantime, UNICEF continues to scale up its efforts to respond to growing needs.



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