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As winter sets in, UNHCR calls for sustained support for humanitarian and recovery needs in Ukraine

Briefing notes

As winter sets in, UNHCR calls for sustained support for humanitarian and recovery needs in Ukraine

1 December 2023 Also available in:
Ukraine. Regional Director for Europe visits Ukraine

UNHCR Regional Director for Europe, Philippe Leclerc (centre), visits the city of Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine to see the destruction and meet people affected by the war.

GENEVA – As the second winter sets in since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling for sustained support for Ukrainian civilians severely affected by the war.  

This week, heavy snowfalls and plummeting temperatures exacerbated an already dire situation, causing civilian casualties, power outages and posing significant challenges for vulnerable people, particularly in frontline communities. UNHCR and its partners, supporting the Government of Ukraine, are focused on providing immediate humanitarian support to those in need –  including many internally displaced families – and contributing to early recovery efforts.

This winter, UNHCR will reach approximately 900,000 people with crucial winter support, such as cash assistance for increased energy bills, warm clothing, heating appliances and assistance with insulating homes. More than 460,000 displaced and war-affected people have already received their cash assistance at the start of winter.

The destruction across the country from the hostilities is overwhelming. I saw houses and schools completely destroyed or heavily damaged in Vysokopillia, in northern Kherson, which was retaken in October last year after seven months of temporary occupation by the Russian Armed Forces. Despite the immense destruction, around 50 per cent of residents have returned, and I met with Halyna and Liudmyla whose houses were repaired under UNHCR’s shelter programme. They appreciated the support, which enabled them to return and stay warm this winter, and they called on us and the international community to not forget the people of Ukraine, who are still suffering from the ongoing war.

In Odesa, numerous port facilities have been damaged along with cultural and historical sites and people's homes. Here, UNHCR supports the largest humanitarian hub in the country that distributes aid to up to 500 displaced families daily, working with community-based organisations founded by displaced people, which supports inclusion and psychosocial recovery.

Across the country, multi-service protection centres operated by UNHCR and its partners play a critical role in providing free legal aid to help people restore civil and property documentation, which is critical for accessing administrative and social protection services and property compensation. In regions hosting the largest numbers of internally displaced people, such as Dnipro and Zaporizhizhia, UNHCR continues to support those living in collective accommodation. Some have lived there since 2022, separated from family members and uprooted from home communities. I met Nadiia, a widow and mother of seven children who had not seen her brothers and sisters, who remain in the temporarily occupied village of Smila, since she fled in April 2022.

In 2023 so far, UNHCR in Ukraine has reached more than 2.4 million people with protection services like free legal aid and psychosocial support, cash and in-kind assistance, emergency shelter materials and house and collective centre repairs. This has been done under the inter-agency response and the committed leadership of the Government and its regional and local authorities. I had the pleasure of meeting the Governors of Kherson and of Zaporitzhia, who reaffirmed their strong cooperation and shared their visions for the modern reconstruction of their regions.

While the war continues without an end in sight, people and communities are working on rebuilding homes and lives. As we approach the second-year mark of the full-scale invasion of Ukraine, it is vital that humanitarian funding be sustained and expanded. This is key for stabilizing displaced populations, enabling returns and building opportunities within Ukraine through humanitarian, recovery and development initiatives.

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