One year after the launch of the “special military operation” by the Russian President, which escalated the ongoing Russo-Ukraine conflict into war, there appears no sign of peace on the horizon. The conflict has caused high casualties amongst both armies and within the civilian population in Ukraine. There are almost eight million Ukrainian refugees across Europe, and another six million displaced inside the country. It’s estimated 90% of these are women and children. The continuing conflict has led to talk of a new Cold War and very worryingly a step back from the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, which was to reduce the stockpile of nuclear weapons held by the USA and the Russian Federation.
As part of the global federation of ActionAid we have learnt that in Ukraine women and girls are experiencing escalating levels of violence with no adequate protection as the situation worsens ‘by the day’. Protection of women has been ‘forgotten’ after concerns over glaring gaps in mental health support and safeguarding.
We are deeply concerned that the rights of women and girls affected by the Ukraine conflict are being failed and they aren’t receiving the protection they desperately need to safeguard them physically and mentally from abuse. With increased threats of sexual and gender-based violence, ActionAid is calling for the needs of women and girls to be put first and not forgotten.
ActionAid, working with partners in Ukraine and surrounding countries, has seen worsening levels of sexual and gender-based violence on women and girls both inside and outside the country.
Large numbers of people have been displaced in Ukraine and this has added to the vulnerability of women and girls, out of those who have moved into shelters two thirds are women (65%) and a quarter (25%) are children. Always disproportionately impacted in a crisis, women and girls are being forced to carry out transactional sex in exchange for food and survival. There are reports of women and girls ‘disappearing’ and trafficking is a major risk.
Sandeep Chachra, Executive Director, ActionAid Association says, “We are pained that the conflict in Ukraine continues at a time when there is an urgent need for the global community to come together to ensure climate justice and guard against the future threat of global pandemics. I am proud that my colleagues have participated in the humanitarian response to the Ukraine conflict last year, and I feel that we need a stronger presence of the Global South in the International community to move away from conflict, which most often is created by the Global North, to concerns of vast populations of vulnerable communities and care for what is increasingly becoming a fragile planet.”