As the escalation of the war in Ukraine approaches its second year, the international aid agency CARE says more support is needed for organisations supporting refugee and displaced women.
86% of the 8 million Ukrainian refugees in Europe and beyond are women and children, and around 6 in every 10 people displaced inside Ukraine is a woman.
“There is a strong gender dynamic to this crisis — while women make up the majority of those displaced inside Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, they are also rising up to support each other as part of the response,” said CARE International Secretary General, Sofia Sprechmann Sineiro.
In Ukraine and neighboring countries, women’s organisations immediately sprang into action one year ago, delivering lifesaving services to Ukrainian women and girls who are vulnerable to trafficking, exploitation and abuse.
In Poland, CARE partners with FEDERA Federation for Women and Family Planning, a local reproductive health and rights organisation.
FEDERA President Krystyna Kacpura said: “One year ago, we knew we had to act fast. We had to find Ukrainian speakers to respond to the needs for sexual and reproductive health services for refugee women and girls.”
Many organisations are held together by the work of volunteers who have themselves fled their homes, and are volunteering as translators, teachers, psychologists and more.
Lyudmyla, 38, is one such volunteer. She makes home visits to 200 sick people, many of whom are elderly and live alone.
“Many are also hungry. I visited a 90-year-old woman who hadn’t eaten in a week,” Lyudmyla said.
Despite the outpouring of solidarity amongst local NGOs and within the refugee community itself, the needs are immense and services are stretched.
At one CARE-funded service in Cherkasy, Ukraine, which provides psychological and social support to women impacted by the war, the surge in demand has led to appointment wait times of almost a month.
Inna Kanivets, a psychologist who works for the service, said: “Lack of space to retreat, the constant tension, worries about oneself, family, fathers, brothers or relatives at the front cause great anxiety.
CARE’s Sofia Sprechmann-Sinero said: “One year on, it is more crucial than ever to maintain our support to these brave women and the organisations working with them both in Ukraine and the surrounding countries.”
“We are in a marathon. And in a marathon, it is not the first minutes that are the hardest, nor the last. It’s the ones in the middle.”
For media enquiries contact Iona Salter on 0413 185 634.
Spokespeople from CARE and partner organisations in Ukraine, Poland and Romania are available for interview. Photos and human interest stories also available on request.