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 with the continuing war in Ukraine. In 2022 alone, 477 children have been killed and 909 injured while millions have fled, 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. An estimated 5.1 million people, including 1.3 million children, are currently displaced within Ukraine. Millions have fled the country: 5.9 million refugees, 84 percent women and children, are recorded across Europe. Altogether, 21.8 million people, including 6.3 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 continues to scale up humanitarian assistance, enhance national systems and services and support governments to reach 9.5 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 and humanitarian cash; and work to strengthen social protection and national and local capacities to address needs. The total amount requested includes US$829.2 million for support inside Ukraine and US$229.5 million for the refugee response.
Key planned results for 2023
5.3 million women and children accessing health care
5.7 million people accessing safe drinking water
294,808 households reached with UNICEF-funded multi-purpose humanitarian cash transfers
3.8 million children and caregivers accessing mental health and psychosocial support
Funding requirements for 2023
Pillar 1: Ukraine
Pillar 2: Refugee receiving countries
Pillar 1: Ukraine needs and strategy
The continued war in Ukraine has intensified humanitarian needs. In 2022 alone, the United Nations verified that 477 children have been killed and 909 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. 290 hospitals and 461 schools have been impacted by attacks. The war has also displaced more than 5.1 million people, of whom 18 percent are children aged 5–17 years. 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 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 5.3 million school-aged children have been severely affected, creating urgent need for education support. Attacks on energy infrastructure have led to power outages that have interrupted water networks and access to critical services like health and education. Without electricity, children will face extreme cold, their learning risks being interrupted, critical services at health facilities face disruption, and water systems are not functioning. The already extremely high risks of pneumonia, seasonal influenza, waterborne diseases and coronavirus disease, for those unvaccinated, will be further exacerbated. The long winter, loss of income and the energy and socioeconomic crisis are devastating to the well-being of children and families. The poverty rate in Ukraine increased from 5.5 percent in 2021 to 24.1 percent in 2022, pushing an additional 7.1 million people into poverty and reversing 15 years of economic progress. The destruction of the Kakhovka Dam has had grave humanitarian and environmental consequences, on top of the life-threatening concerns linked to explosive remnants and potential nuclear risks.
An estimated 17.6 million people, including 4.1 million children, 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 11.1 million people 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, including protection assistance, life-saving supplies, 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 Government, United Nations agencies and civil society organizations, and by actively contributing to the Cash Working Group.
A zonal approach will continue, delivering humanitarian and recovery interventions. In the south-east, where intense fighting and access constraints remain, UNICEF will participate in inter-agency humanitarian convoys through multidisciplinary teams, preposition supplies, develop contingency plans, and engage with municipal, regional and local administrations and civil society to implement its humanitarian response. In central and western Ukraine, UNICEF will use national systems and engage local authorities and civil society, while prioritizing three recovery flagship areas: Early Childhood Development (ECD), Youth, and Better Care.
Working with implementing partners, provision of essential vaccines will remain a priority, alongside primary health-care access, provision of health and nutrition supplies and infant and young child feeding promotion. Access to water supply and hygiene 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 children with disabilities, to child protection services, mine victim and gender-based violence (GBV) assistance and mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS), reinforcing gender-responsive programming and 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 multisector 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 a child with disability or in newly accessible areas will be sustained, while shock-responsive national social protection programmes will be supported. Children and families will continue receiving life-saving explosive ordnance risk education and information on access to services, hygiene, routine immunization and deinstitutionalization. UNICEF will use feedback mechanisms to adapt to needs of affected populations.
Pillar 1: Ukraine programme targets
Pillar 2: Refugee receiving countries needs and strategy
The war in Ukraine is fluid and unpredictable, while the Ukrainian refugee crisis remains one of the largest worldwide. Europe currently hosts 5.9 million refugees, including 3.2 million children. Continued war, nuclear threat, and economic hardship hinder returns and trigger new refugee movements.
The situation for refugees and host countries remains complex, unpredictable and acute. New refugees are more vulnerable due to fewer resources, multiple displacements and exposure to trauma. Despite the initial welcome towards Ukrainian refugees, with the protracted situation support in some host communities and from European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organizations has declined due to socio-economic conditions.
Approximately 6 million Ukrainian children have had their education disrupted. While EU member states have granted access to education through the Temporary Protection Directive, many have opted for online learning, resulting in enrollment rates of only 30 percent. Children not enrolled in early childhood education miss vital learning and development opportunities; most host countries have the lowest enrolment rates in Europe. Adolescent refugees face challenges integrating into schools or vocational training due to language barriers or preference for Ukrainian online education, making them vulnerable to protection risks, abuse and exploitation.
Most national social protection systems in refugee-hosting countries lack capacity to rapidly expand social assistance coverage to include refugee children and families in their social safety net, including children from particularly vulnerable groups. Ensuring disability-sensitive social protection is challenging as comprehensive system of disability cash benefits do not address developmental needs of children from early stages to mitigate developmental delays or consequences of severe disability.
Refugees struggle to access protection services and remain at risk of violence and exploitation. Those impacted by trauma, unaccompanied, separated and relocated from institutional care remain highly vulnerable. A shortage of qualified psychologists limits available support. Investment in identification, family reunification, support to unaccompanied and separated children and children evacuated from institutions remain critical. The lack of standardized responses and cross-sectoral services for family support and reintegration remains a concern.
Government capacities to provide essential, quality services for refugees are strained, highlighting need to complement and strengthen national systems and child-centred responses. Cities and municipalities lack capacities, strategic plans and financial resources to ensure basic quality services and social inclusion of refugees. Many countries continue to host significant numbers of refugees and migrants fleeing other conflicts, with discrepancies in access to services, 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 2.4 million people, including 1.5 million children.
Under established humanitarian leadership structures, UNICEF will sustain and expand its country-specific responses, providing protection assistance, essential services, capacity building of social services and support for preparedness for additional displacements and other emergencies. This strategy aligns with the inter-agency Refugee Response Plan and host governments’ priorities for humanitarian response, policy development and systems strengthening, reinforcing the humanitarian and development nexus.
UNICEF will sustain and expand its collaboration with national and local governments to provide education, early learning, health, nutrition, child protection and social support for refugee children and families in 19 countries. This includes working with the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), humanitarian partners and UNICEF National Committees. At country level, UNICEF will enhance humanitarian coordination by co-chairing the child protection and education sub-working groups and the Protection from Sexual Exploitation and Abuse (PSEA) Network. UNICEF will participate in GBV mitigation health, MHPSS, humanitarian cash and WASH working groups.
UNICEF, in partnership with national and local authorities, civil society organizations and partners will ensure access to essential services for Ukraine refugee children and promote social cohesion, to support inclusion and realization of children’s rights. Within this framework, UNICEF will enhance national capacities to maintain an enabling environment and expand services for all refugee children, including vulnerable groups like Roma communities, unaccompanied and separated children and those evacuated from institutional care. Moreover, UNICEF will engage 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. While prioritizing key interventions, expanding the response utilizing national systems and preparing for contingency or other emergencies, UNICEF will take into consideration findings of the real-time evaluation and internal audit to inform decision-making and further strengthen UNICEF's efforts in addressing the critical needs of the affected populations.
UNICEF will work with stakeholders, expanding protection, efforts and integration of children in education systems and UNICEF-UNHCR ‘Blue Dots’ in strategic locations to offer multisector support. WASH infrastructure, emergency supplies and child protection monitoring will be reinforced at border crossings and accommodation centers, to cater for additional population movements. Children will be supported to access early childhood development, accredited online/mother-tongue learning and primary health care, including pediatric services and immunization. Cross-sectoral approaches in gender, adolescent development, and disability will be incorporated. UNICEF will provide cash assistance during challenging times, such as winter and economic hardships.
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.