International Womens Day: DEC aid agencies warn of crucial need to protect women and girls affected by the Ukraine crisis

This International Women's Day, the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) - which has raised more than £100 million in its Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal so far - highlights the plight of women and young girls escaping the crisis who urgently need protection and assistance. 

The funds donated will support DEC member charities working in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to scale up their work, which includes medical support, counselling, providing safe spaces for women and children and giving out dignity kits containing items like underwear, period products and soap. 

The majority of the 1.7 million people who have fled Ukraine are women and children, in the fastest growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War, according to the UN. The need to protect vulnerable women and children is crucial as conflict, crisis and displacement puts women and girls at increased risk of sexual and physical violence and abuse. 

For those still in Ukraine, life is threatening. Women have been giving birth in underground metro stations as health facilities become inaccessible or too damaged to function. An estimated 80,000 women will give birth in the next three months in Ukraine, according to UNFPA – many of them without access to critical maternal health care. For some, childbirth will be a life-threatening rather than a life-changing experience.   

Alexandra Parnebjork, Plan International Gender in Emergencies Advisor, said: “We know the majority of maternal deaths in the world occur in humanitarian crises. During this crisis alone, around 80,000 pregnant women and girls are expected to give birth in the next three months in Ukraine without access to proper maternal healthcare. In these situations, women and girls know what they want and need. We must work with them to ensure they have access to proper health care and protection from sexual and gender-based violence.” 

Suzy Madigan, CARE International's Senior Humanitarian Advisor (Gender and Protection), said: “The conflict in Ukraine and resulting displacement is tearing families apart, leaving women and children who are trying to find safety exposed and vulnerable. Women fleeing disasters everywhere face the real risk of gender-based violence and abuse when they’re forced to leave home. If you become reliant on others for the basic needs of survival, exploitation becomes a real threat.” 

Niki Ignatiou, ActionAid UK’s Humanitarian Advisor, said: “At Ukraine’s borders with Poland, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova, huge numbers of women, children and young people are arriving with only what they can carry. There are deeply concerning reports of racism against refugees of colour, including mothers with babies forced to wait longer in below freezing temperatures with no shelter and reports of female young students being stuck at the borders for several days without shelter and toilet facilities.   

“Women and girls arriving at the border urgently need food, water, shelter and essential items like soap, period products and underwear. Psychosocial support and safe spaces to prevent gender-based violence will also be vital in the coming weeks.”   

Rebecca Front, actor and British Red Cross supporter, said: “It’s heartbreaking to think of the situation facing women and children who have fled their homes, fearing for their lives, many of them leaving family members behind who they will be desperately worried about. Donations to the DEC will ensure aid reaches those who need it, fast. DEC charities are already working on the ground in Ukraine and neighbouring countries, providing women and families with food, shelter, clean water, hygiene kits, healthcare and child friendly spaces as well as psychosocial support, including trauma counselling. Please donate today if you can.” 

Ongoing humanitarian crises around the world also continue to place women and children at risk. Money from previous and ongoing DEC appeals is still being spent in Afghanistan, DR Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, Yemen and the Rohingya refugee camps – as well as vulnerable communities affected by the coronavirus pandemic. 


Notes to editors: 

Media enquiries please call 020 7387 0200 or 07734 653616 (out of hours). 

DEC charities are working in Ukraine and in neighbouring countries, ramping up efforts to meet the growing humanitarian need. We have spokespeople available to talk about the risk facing women in the Ukraine crisis.  

For more information or to request interviews in advance please contact: 

A collection of images and video footage of DEC member charities responding as refugees arrive into neighbouring countries is available here

See below for some of the work DEC charities and their local partners are currently doing. Donations to the DEC will ensure this work can be scaled up to meet the growing humanitarian need. 

  • ActionAid - Working with local partners, ActionAid’s response will be focused on providing immediate humanitarian relief, preventing gender-based violence, providing psychosocial counselling support and strengthening the leadership of women and young people in crisis. 
  • Age International is responding inside Ukraine via local partners and in neighbouring countries to support older people. The charity aims to reach 400,000 people, providing emergency food and water kits, medical, hygiene and dignity kits and support in response to trauma that so many older people will be experiencing.   
  • Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers are providing first aid, warm clothes, and support in shelters and metro stations. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is working to restore water supplies, provide support to medical facilities, and provide food and shelter to those affected by the fighting. In neighbouring countries, the Red Cross is helping those fleeing Ukraine.   
  • CARE International has partnered with local partners to distribute urgently needed emergency supplies such as food, water, hygiene kits and cash to cover daily needs as well as hygiene products and psychosocial support for affected Ukrainian refugees. 
  • CAFOD through its international partner Caritas has 19 centres across Ukraine: they are running warm and safe ‘collective centres’ with beds, food, washing facilities and safe spaces for children; providing transport, up-to-date information and psychosocial support. They are organising child-friendly spaces where children can play sports and do arts and crafts as a means of coping with their experiences.  
  • The International Rescue Committee is rapidly scaling up resources and mobilizing partners to assist civilians who have been forced to flee their homes. The charity is meeting with partners and local civil society organizations in Poland and speaking to partners in Ukraine to meet the humanitarian needs that arise as conflict forces people to flee to neighbouring countries and inside Ukraine itself. The IRC is preparing to scale up services for the protection of women and children. 
  • Plan international are collaborating with local organisations currently helping those forced to flee, to ensure there is immediate help for children and their families as they cross the border from Ukraine. Women and girls account for the majority crossing the border to seek refuge in another country. They are at particular risk of abuse and sexual exploitation. Plan International will support organisations to raise awareness among refugee children, adolescents and caregivers of the risks of gender-based violence and signpost them to available sources of support. 
  • Save the Children is working in neighbouring countries to help provide children and families with immediate aid: food, water, hygiene kits, psychosocial support, cash assistance.  
  • World Vision is working through partners in Ukraine and neighbouring countries to help provide fleeing children and families with hygiene kits, protection and psychosocial support including child-friendly spaces.   

About the DEC: The DEC brings together 15 leading UK aid charities at times of crisis overseas to raise funds quickly and efficiently. In these times of crisis, people in life-and-death situations need our help and our mission is to save, protect and rebuild lives through effective humanitarian response. The DEC’s 15 member charities are: Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, International Rescue Committee UK, Islamic Relief Worldwide, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK, Tearfund and World Vision UK. 

Thirteen of the DEC’s 15 members are either responding or planning to respond in Ukraine or in neighbouring countries and will receive funds from this appeal. Some may work through trusted local partners. They are Action Against Hunger, ActionAid UK, Age International, British Red Cross, CAFOD, CARE International UK, Christian Aid, Concern Worldwide UK, International Rescue Committee UK, Oxfam GB, Plan International UK, Save the Children UK and World Vision UK. 

Through UK Aid Match the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) gives the British public the opportunity to have a say in how the UK aid budget is spent whilst boosting the impact of the very best British charities to change and save the lives of some of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. The UK Government match funded up to £25 million of public donations to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. This is the largest commitment ever made to a DEC appeal through UK Aid Match and will double the impact of public donations, ensuring that charities working on the ground can reach those in urgent need. 

UK Aid Match has increased the impact of a number of DEC appeals to help those in need around the world, including most recently to support people in Afghanistan through DEC’s Afghanistan Appeal in 2021. 

Enquiries about UK Aid Match and UK Government support for Ukraine should be directed to the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office Newsdesk. Please email 

How to donate:  

  • Online: 
  • Phone: 0370 60 60 900 
  • SMS: To donate £10 text SUPPORT to 70150. Texts cost £10 plus the standard network charge and the whole £10 goes to the DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal. You must be 16 or over and please ask the bill payer's permission. For full terms and conditions and more information go to 
  • Or donate over the counter at any high street bank or post office or send a cheque by post to Post: DEC Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal, PO Box 999, London EC3A 3AA.