This International Women’s Day (Tuesday 8th March), women in Ukraine are displaying courage on a scale which could scarcely have been imagined this time last year, as they deal with the impact of the Russian invasion. Over 1.5 million refugees are now estimated to have left Ukraine, many of them women and children, forced at short notice to abandon their homes and lives and often leaving loved ones behind to continue the fight.
Women and girls are at particular risk in active conflict situations, and during widescale displacement gender-based violence, exploitation, discrimination, and poor access to vital health services all rise.
Care International, a charity which seeks to fight poverty and injustice by empowering women and girls is active on the Ukrainian borders, supporting women as they arrive in neighbouring countries. Many have headed to Poland, but faced with the massive arrival of refugees, the borders are saturated. Ukrainians are now turning south to find refuge in Romania. NGO CARE and its Romanian partner SERA are on the ground at the Isaccea border crossing preparing to provide assistance.
Currently, hundreds of people are crossing the border every day, but with the deteriorating situation and the overcrowding at the Polish borders, local authorities estimate that daily arrivals could reach up to 50,000.
Valentina Mirza, CARE International Romania Response Team Leader in Isaccea said:
“We are currently in Isaccea, on the border with Romania. About 2000 people are arriving here every day after crossing the Danube by boat. The temperatures are freezing and many children have no warm clothes or blankets to protect themselves. People also need warm and nutritious food for babies. The need is growing by the hour at the border where women, children and the elderly are lining up for miles. Many are exhausted after a long journey in crowded trains, in cars in endless traffic jams or on foot with limited possessions. They have had to wait for long hours or even days at the border in freezing temperatures.”
As of 2nd March reports are that 140,000 people had crossed into Romania from Ukraine in search of safety and support. The Romanian authorities are doing their best to ensure that no one is left out in the open, and citizens are showing immense solidarity in providing shelter, hot drinks and assistance to families. But the needs are increasing, and border countries are not resourced to receive refugees.
CARE and its partner SERA are working alongside the Romanian authorities to organize support to traumatised families, including training 200 psychologists in emergency psychosocial support in the border areas where refugees are arriving, to provide assistance to help them overcome the trauma of war and leaving their homes. CARE and SERA are also supporting the social services and child protection departments set up services on arrival and at transit routes for the most vulnerable children.
Bogdan Simion, SERA’s Executive Director, added:
“We will start distributions of emergency supplies at the Isaccea border crossing next week. Our teams on the ground are working hard to organize the best possible emergency response for refugees crossing the border in the coming days: food distributions, hygiene supplies, mattresses and blankets. The needs are huge, and we need your support to help them.”
Photo: Mother and daughter in Poland, Adrienne Surprenant, MYOP