Two years of war in Ukraine

RS353077_2 years_Ukraine_Valentyna Barbash 72 in her apartment_lpr
Valentyna Barbash, 72, was cooking a meal for her grandchildren when her apartment building was hit by a missile. Her neighbors came to her aid and helped her escape the burning building. Since the outbreak of the war in Ukraine in 2022, Oxfam has supported the work of 40 organizations in the region that are helping people affected by the conflict. Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Oxfam is working with partners to deliver aid to communities most at risk in the ongoing conflict.

In 2022, Valentyna Barbash was preparing dinner for her grandchildren in her fourth-floor apartment in Chernihiv, Ukraine. “I felt safe in my home,” Barbash said later. “There was no air alarm that day.”

One minute, all was well. And in the next, a missile struck the 72-year-old grandmother’s building. Suddenly, her apartment was on fire.

Neighbors helped Barbash and her family escape—they all survived. Since that day the war has continued, and more than 10,000 Ukrainian civilians have been killed, according to the United Nations. And in these last two years, Ukrainians across the country have continued to work together to provide life-saving assistance to their fellow citizens, just as Barbash’s neighbors came to her aid.

Valentyna Barbash’s apartment building was destroyed by a missile strike in 2022. Oxfam and the United Nations estimate there are 3.67 million internally displaced people in Ukraine. Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

As soon as the war broke out on February 24, 2022, Oxfam committed to funding the work of local groups who were already operating in Ukraine, as well as others helping refugees fleeing the violence and seeking shelter in Poland, Moldova, and Romania. In less than a year, Oxfam set up four country programs and established formal partnerships with local organizations and foundations, as well as local and national government bodies. By 2024, we were working with 40 local organizations that have reached more than 2 million people affected by the conflict.

What Oxfam is doing to help people in Ukraine

Oxfam’s humanitarian response is prioritizing women-led organizations, women’s rights organizations, and groups supporting LGBTQIA+ people, Roma communities, and others at risk of being overlooked by aid programs. We seek to ensure that the specific needs of marginalized groups are fully understood and that assistance provided by Oxfam and our partners is carried out in ways that are inclusive of these communities.

Thanks to your support, we estimate we have assisted:

  • 870,000 people in 13 oblasts (regions) in Ukraine
  • 1.19 million people in Poland, Moldova, and Romania
  • 930,000 of the people assisted by Oxfam partners are women and gender minorities
  • 1.3 million people with access to water, hygiene, and sanitation
  • 75,000+ people with sanitation facilities at border crossings
  • 62,000 people with psycho-social support
  • 35,000 people with multi-purpose cash assistance
  • 10,000 people with repairs to homes, warm clothes, and other assistance to help them survive cold weather

Enduring the war in Ukraine

Among the ethnic minorities most at risk of being overlooked by humanitarian assistance programs in Ukraine are the Roma people. Even before the war broke out in Ukraine, research by Oxfam indicated that Roma communities lived in dire conditions marked by high levels of poverty, segregation, sub-standard and overcrowded housing, and lack of access to essential services, such as health and education.

“War, like any crisis, increases discrimination,” confirms one staff member of the Voice of Romni organization in Ukraine, which works with Roma people. “Roma women who tried to evacuate experienced discrimination at the border. And those who remained were afraid that they would not be allowed to go to shelters… Roma families faced denial of humanitarian aid. …”

With Oxfam’s support, Voice of Romni has supported the most vulnerable Roma communities living in the eastern regions close to the front line (Kharkiv, Zaporizhzhia, and Dnipropetrovsk). The organization provided people in these areas with firewood, power banks, and warm blankets. They also distributed food and hygiene kits to 2,658 of the most vulnerable Roma households in Kharkiv and Dnipropetrovsk regions.

Oxfam is working with local governments and other organizations to repair municipal drinking water systems. This drinking water dispenser was installed in Mykolaiv. Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

Women across Ukraine face some of the greatest hardships. “Women need support, including psychological counselling,” says Oksana Horbunova, a project manager at the NGO Resource Centre, one of Oxfam’s allies in Ukraine. This is why Oxfam partner The Tenth of April organization (TTA), enlists women to reach out to displaced families and women-headed families to help them with cash, legal advice, and other aid designed to reduce risks. TTA organizes volunteers who visit families in communities to help them get materials to repair their damaged homes or find transportation to a nearby community to visit a health clinic.

“I believe, with the assistance of someone like me, people find out more accurate information,” says Natalia, a TTA community volunteer. “I also direct them to our lawyers, and to psychologists.”

Mobilizing women to help women-headed households and others to access cash and get other assistance raises hopes that women can take on a more prominent role in post-war Ukraine. “We hope that the women who are responding to the humanitarian crisis now will be part of the political system, and change this system,” says Olga Tkachenko, a project manager at The Tenth of April.

Cash assistance provided by TTA and other groups has proven to be an important type of aid in Ukraine because women-headed families receiving cash can decide for themselves what to spend it on, prioritizing what they need most.

Oxfam has supported cash assistance programs in 15 regions of Ukraine. We have reached 10,000 individuals in the northeast and south of the country, and the spending trends show that nearly 49 percent of the cash was spent on food with most of the rest being spent on rent, utilities, firewood, and medical expenses.

Kseniia, Olga, and Natalia work with The Tenth of April organization as volunteers in the Mykolaiv region where they reach out to people affected by the conflict to understand how humanitarian aid can be best adapted to support their needs, and to share information about how to access aid. The Tenth of April/Oxfam

Helping refugees seek safety

In the opening months of the war, roughly 6.2 million people fled Ukraine, seeking shelter in Poland, Moldova, and Romania. About 1 million have returned to Ukraine, others have moved to other parts of Europe. In addition to providing clean water, portable toilets, handwashing facilities, showers, laundry services, and hygiene items to refugees at border crossings, since February 2022 Oxfam has worked with 27 partners in Poland, Romania, and Moldova to help refugees access vital humanitarian assistance.

We have prioritized partnerships with organizations working directly with people who often face additional barriers in accessing aid–particularly with women’s rights organizations, LGBTQIA+ organizations, and Roma-led organizations.

A refugee family crosses the border from Ukraine to Poland in April 2022. Oxfam helped to provide waters, sanitation facilities, and hygiene items to refugees at border crossing points in 2022, and is continuing to support organizations in Poland that are assisting refugees. Tineke D'haese/Oxfam

In Poland, Oxfam partners with Lambda Warszawa, which has been active in supporting the LGBTQIA+ community in Poland since 1997. When the war began, they started getting requests for assistance from the LGBTQIA+ community in Ukraine and refugees crossing the border. Lambda Warszawa responded by creating a center in Poland, a safe space where people can find legal and medical help and socialize without discrimination. The center helps people build connections, learn Polish, find a job, and access a range of training and other support.

Oxfam worked with 13 organizations in Romania and Moldova that helped 380,000 people. As many of these refugees have moved on, Oxfam has ended its collaboration with groups in these two countries. We continue to work with our partners in Poland, where there are still more than 956,000 Ukrainian refugees.

The Ukraine conflict continues

Oxfam and the United Nations estimate that 14.6 million people in Ukraine need humanitarian assistance, including 1.6 million internally displaced people.

Oxfam intends to continue supporting local humanitarian organizations in Ukraine and Poland, as they are well established in affected communities and are best placed to understand the humanitarian needs.

Staff from The Tenth of April (right) helps a client who was displaced from her home. The organization provides support for displaced people seeking transportation, shelter, and other services. Kieran Doherty/Oxfam

With no immediate end to the war in sight, it is more important than ever to support our partners with flexible, sustainable funding. We also want to ensure these organizations can be involved in discussions about the post-war future and represent the needs of marginalized groups whose voices are not usually considered in discussions about recovery and reconstruction.

In the meantime, people are still struggling to survive, and need support. “The wounds are very deep,” says Cecylia Jakubczak, the head of communications at Towards Dialogue, an organization led by Roma people in Poland. “lt will take years and years to recover, and still we don’t know how long the war will last.”

Related content

PresDebate-Web-v2 (1) Story

2024 Presidential Election Debate Bingo

Oxfam’s bingo card includes topics we hope are addressed by the candidates and phrases we expect will come up. Play along as you watch the debate.