Ukraine and Refugee Response Appeal
Humanitarian Action for Children
UNICEF’s Humanitarian Action for Children appeal helps support the agency’s work as it provides conflict- and disaster-affected children with access to water, sanitation, nutrition, education, health and protection services. Return to main appeal page.
Ukraine and refugee response crisis snapshot
- Humanitarian needs endure and intensify as the war in Ukraine rages on. Since February 2022, 1,148 children have been killed or injured while millions have fled, been uprooted from their homes, separated from their families or put at risk of violence.
- In Ukraine, services are decimated by conflict and the destruction of infrastructure. And 6.5 million people, including 1.2 million children, are currently displaced within Ukraine. Millions have fled the country: 7.7 million refugees, 90 percent women and children, have fled to Europe. Altogether, 27.3 million people, including 7.1 million children, need assistance in Ukraine and in 19 countries in Europe.
- The entwined emergency in Ukraine and in refugee-hosting countries is complex and unpredictable, necessitating a sustained, agile and effective response to massive needs. UNICEF will continue to scale up humanitarian assistance, enhance national systems and services and support governments to reach 9.4 million people, including 4 million children.
- UNICEF requires US$1.1 billion to ensure crucial support for children and families in 2023. This includes critical supplies, services and support in the areas of child protection, health care and nutrition, education, water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) and humanitarian cash; and work to strengthen social protection and national and local capacities to address needs. The total amount requested includes US$829 million for support inside Ukraine and US$229.5 million for the refugee response.
Key planned results for 2023
5.4 million women and children accessing health care
5.7 million people accessing safe drinking water
276,686 households reached with UNICEF-funded multi-purpose humanitarian cash transfers
4 million children and caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support
Funding requirements for 2022
Pillar 1: Ukraine
Pillar 2: Refugee receiving countries
Pillar 1: Ukraine needs and strategy
The continued war in Ukraine has intensified humanitarian needs. Children are paying an extraordinary price in lives lost and upended, with 403 killed and 745 injured since the escalation in February 2022. In areas affected by intense fighting, services have been decimated, and protection mechanisms can no longer support vulnerable children and families. Just under 550 health facilities have been impacted by attacks. The war has also displaced more than 6.5 million people, of whom 18 percent are children aged 5-17 years. 14 It has heightened children’s risk for disease, violence, family separation, child trafficking, unexploded ordinances and disrupted schooling. Access to vulnerable families in areas under active fighting remains challenging.
Children face a looming mental health crisis, with an estimated 1.5 million at risk of depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorders and other mental conditions. Around 3.7 million adults and children need protection from, and response to, violence (including gender-based violence) and neglect. The upheaval of war has created an even more tenuous situation for displaced children, those living in institutions and children with disabilities. The lives and futures of the country’s 5.7 million school-aged children have been severely affected – with 3.6 million impacted by school closures as of September. Intensified attacks on critical urban infrastructure in October destroyed 40 percent of Ukraine’s power stations, further exposing families to harsh winter conditions, impacting livelihoods and increasing the likelihood of additional large population movements. Without electricity, children will face extreme cold and be unable to continue online learning, health facilities may be unable to provide critical services and water systems will not function. The already extremely high risks of pneumonia, seasonal influenza, waterborne diseases and coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19), for those unvaccinated, will be further exacerbated. The harsh winter, loss of income and the energy and socioeconomic crisis triggered by the war are devastating to the well-being of children and families. The estimated number of people newly exposed to poverty is 472,018, of whom 400,104 are children. Environmental consequences associated with the war, including explosive remnants and potential nuclear risks, have not been assessed yet.
An estimated 17.6 million people, including 3.2 million children, will require humanitarian support in 2023, including health assistance for more than 14.6 million people (2.8 million children) and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) support for 11 million people. An estimated 9.3 million people will need food and livelihoods assistance. Recovery plans are being developed to align legislative, policy, and institutional frameworks on children’s rights with international standards, opening an opportunity to advance a child-centred, resilience-building recovery and reconstruction.
Under established humanitarian leadership structures, UNICEF will sustain and expand its flexible, adaptive response to the unpredictable situation in Ukraine, including protection assistance, delivery of life-saving supplies, provision of essential services, enhancement of social service capacities, preparedness for additional displacements and support to government systems. UNICEF’s strategy aligns with the inter-agency humanitarian response plan and supports the Government’s priorities and recovery plan, reinforcing linkages between humanitarian and development programmes. UNICEF will continue strengthening humanitarian coordination through leadership of WASH, Child Protection and Education Clusters, in partnership with the Government, United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, and by actively contributing to the Cash Working Group.
A sequenced, zonal differentiated approach will continue. UNICEF will focus 70 per cent of its humanitarian efforts in areas with ongoing conflict, deploying rapid response teams, using inter-agency humanitarian convoys, ensuring contingency planning and pre-positioning critical supplies, and working with local administrations and civil society partners. In more accessible zones, national systems, municipalities and civil society organizations will be engaged, combining the humanitarian emergency response for displaced and returning populations with recovery and development support.
Working with implementing partners, provision of essential vaccines will remain a priority, alongside ensuring primary health-care access, provision of health and nutrition supplies and infant and young child feeding promotion. Access to water supply and WASH items for at-risk communities and re-establishment of water and sanitation infrastructure in health and school facilities will be ensured.
UNICEF will expand access, including for those with disabilities, to child protection services, mine victim and gender-based violence assistance and mental health and psychosocial support, reinforcing gender-responsive programming and the prevention of sexual exploitation and abuse. Supporting unaccompanied and separated children, preventing human trafficking and locating children in state custody will remain priorities, along with case management for children returning from boarding institutions or in alternative care arrangements. Spilno (‘together’) Child Spots and mobile teams will be expanded to provide integrated multisectoral support to children and families.
To enable learning continuity for every child, especially displaced, conflict-affected and returning children, education and early childhood services will be supported in schools, homes and communities, including access to self- and online learning assistance and materials. Damaged facilities will be rehabilitated, and teacher training will continue. Multipurpose cash transfers to vulnerable households with several children and/or a child with a disability will be sustained, while shock-responsive national social protection programmes will be supported. Children and families will continue receiving life-saving exploded ordnance risk education and information on access to services, hygiene, routine immunization and deinstitutionalization. UNICEF will use feedback mechanisms to adapt to the needs of affected populations.
Pillar 1: Ukraine programme targets
Pillar 2: Refugee receiving countries needs and strategy
The Ukrainian refugee crisis remains among the largest worldwide, and movements continue. There are 7.7 million refugees currently hosted in Europe, approximately 40 percent of whom are children, with close to 4.4 million people registered for national protection schemes. While many refugees remain in five neighbouring countries, people have fled across Europe, where UNICEF provides response support in 19 host countries. Continued war, including recent attacks on critical infrastructure, increased humanitarian needs, nuclear threat, economic hardship and harsh winter are inhibiting returns and triggering new refugee movements. Of 6.5 million people who returned to Ukraine, 23 percent indicate no intention to remain, while new arrivals are already expected in Poland and Slovakia.
The situation for refugees and host countries remains complex, unpredictable and acute. Most refugees are unlikely to return before spring, or the end of school year. New refugees will be more vulnerable, having fewer resources and having experienced multiple displacements and prolonged exposure to trauma. Refugees struggle to access protection services, and children remain at risk of violence and exploitation. Those impacted by trauma, or who are unaccompanied, separated and/or relocated from institutional care facilities, remain highly vulnerable. Investment in identification, family reunification and support to unaccompanied and separated children and children evacuated from institutions, and mental health and psychosocial support remain critical.
With dwindling savings, winter brings significant financial needs, particularly for heated accommodation and warm clothing. Rising energy prices constrain governments’ abilities to keep schools open, reception centres warm and expenditure within budgets, making cash and social protection support critical. Access to education remains a challenge, with more than 70 per cent of children not formally registered in schools, while refugee health needs, including for vaccination and adolescent, paediatric and specialized care, require additional capacities and investments. The war’s economic impact and rising inflation have increased child poverty in host countries and the wider region by 19 per cent, driving 4 million additional children into poverty. Government capacities to provide critical, quality services for refugee children and families are stretched, making it crucial to complement and strengthen national systems and child-centred responses. Vulnerable host communities are also impacted by plummeting temperatures and the energy and grain crisis, affecting solidary and social cohesion.
Many countries also continue to host significant numbers of refugees and migrants fleeing other conflicts, with discrepancies in access to services between groups of refugees, for example Roma communities, necessitating continued efforts to ensure systems work for all children, regardless of origin and ethnicity. UNICEF needs to sustain, expand and ensure preparedness for protection and critical assistance to 2.3 million people, including 1.5 million children.
The response to the needs of refugees from Ukraine is being delivered in middle- or high-income countries with functioning systems and capacities which are designed to cater to citizens who are not dependent on these systems and not as vulnerable as refugees. With the influx of refugee children and women, UNICEF has been asked to support delivery of country-specific responses, including targeted humanitarian services, policy development, systems strengthening, enhancement of national and local capacities, leveraging resources and catalysing action. UNICEF will partner with governments and municipalities to sustain and scale up education, early learning, health, nutrition, child and social protection support for refugee children and families in 19 countries, working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), humanitarian partners and UNICEF National Committees under the Ukraine Situation Refugee Response Plan framework.
UNICEF will ensure access to critical services, facilitate social cohesion and enhance national capacities to maintain a supportive environment for all refugee children, including such vulnerable groups as Roma communities, unaccompanied and separated children and those evacuated from institutional care. UNICEF will engage with local authorities, civil society, academia and young people to support cross-sectoral responses, advocate for equitable access regardless of origin, ensure accountability to affected populations and provide information on services, rights and entitlements. UNICEF co-chairs the child protection and education sub-working groups and the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse Network, and participates in gender-based violence, health, mental health and psychosocial support, humanitarian cash and WASH working groups. UNICEF will continue working at the technical, policy and political levels to identify and support unaccompanied children and those in alternative/residential care, reunite families and strengthen national, local and cross-border protection systems. Children will be supported to access early childhood development, accredited online/mother-tongue learning and primary health care, including paediatric services and immunization.
In response to government requests, to ensure continued learning and critical support during winter, economic hardship and the energy crisis, UNICEF will expand cash assistance to prevent children and families’ welfare from deteriorating further. Cross-sectoral approaches in gender, adolescent development and disability will be key components. Given lessons learned in 2022 and the certainty of new refugee flows, investment in contingency planning has been prioritized to ensure timely support, essential supplies, quality services and protection for new arrivals. UNICEF will work with stakeholders, expanding protection efforts and integration of children in education systems and strengthening UNICEF-UNHCR ‘Blue Dots’ in strategic locations to offer multisectoral support. WASH infrastructure, emergency supplies and child protection monitoring will be reinforced at border crossings and accommodation centres. Recognizing varying capacities in host countries, UNICEF will locally adapt its support and leverage its comparative advantage in supply chain, data/knowledge management and cross-border programming.
Pillar 2: Refugee receiving countries programme targets
Humanitarian Action is at the core of UNICEF’s mandate to realize the rights of every child. This edition of Humanitarian Action for Children – UNICEF’s annual humanitarian fundraising appeal – describes the ongoing crises affecting children in Ukraine; the strategies that we are using to respond to these situations; and the donor support that is essential in this response.