WFP Scales up Response as Over 1 Million Ukrainians Flee Their Home Country and Become Refugees

Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022
World Food Programme
Published March 4, 2022

The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) is calling for $570 million as it kicks off an emergency response to the Ukraine crisis. The organization is putting critical supplies in place as the United Nations says more than 1 million refugees have crossed into neighboring countries. 

Trucks carrying 400 metric tons of food have been dispatched from Turkey, with shipments expected to arrive in Romania over the next two days. The U.N. World Food Programme has established warehouses in Kyiv, Lviv and Chernivtsi within Ukraine; Warsaw, Lublin and Rzeszow in Poland; Chisinau in Moldova and Suceava in Romania.

family in winter clothes in front of red building
Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022

Daryna, her daughters and mother-in-law fled Kyiv while her husband stayed behind. After an eight-hour bus journey, they crossed the Polish border on foot.

“We are deeply concerned for the impact of hostilities on the lives and livelihoods of civilians,” said Margot van der Velden, the U.N. World Food Programme’s director of emergencies. “As the situation evolves, there is a need to ensure that affected communities have continued access to any humanitarian support they may require and that the safety of humanitarian staff on the ground is guaranteed.”

Food and drinking water shortages are reported in pockets of the capital Kyiv and in Kharkiv, the two cities currently bearing the brunt of the ongoing conflict. In the capital, food supplies are running low, with grocery store shelves almost empty. Food shortages will be another obstacle facing residents of Kyiv, many of whom have taken shelter in metro stations.

people loading suitcases onto bus
Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022

Ukrainian refugees arrive by the hundreds at a transit center for housing and processing refugees in Hala Kijowska, Poland.

As people continue to flee Ukraine, traffic jams stretch for miles in the direction of the country’s western borders. It is mostly women and children who are arriving in Poland, as men are not allowed to leave Ukraine. In the past few days, people have had to wait in line up to 72 hours for their cases to be processed, with temperatures as low as -2°C at night. Families are desperate, cold, afraid and hungry.

Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022

“We traveled from Kyiv, moved to the west of Ukraine, we stayed there, then we decided to cross the border to Poland, it took us six days altogether,” said Ljudmila who is 70 years old.

It took six days for Ljudmila to make it to Poland with her daughter and their cat. She told U.N. World Food Programme staff: “I want to return to my home, I want peace everywhere and I don’t  want the war to continue.” She added: “If you ask me more questions, I will cry.”

The U.N. World Food Programme – guided by the humanitarian principles of neutrality, impartiality, humanity and independence – has instigated a radical scale-up to help people like her.

Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022

WFP is calling for $570 million to scale up emergency operations over the next few months.

Inside Ukraine, over the next four months, the U.N. World Food Programme will work to reach over 3 million people, half of whom will receive food while everyone else will be given cash grants so they can buy food. Meanwhile, the U.N. World Food Programme is working with the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to assist 300,000 people outside Ukraine’s borders. U.N. World Food Programme teams are also leading the emergency telecoms and logistics push on behalf of the United Nations.

little boy holding toy
Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini/2022

It is mostly women and children who are arriving in Poland as there are bars on men leaving Ukraine.

The current crisis comes as the U.N. World Food Programme warns 811 million people go to bed hungry every night around the world, with the number of those facing severe hunger having jumped from 135 million to 276 million since 2019 – a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic. A total of 44 million people in 38 countries are teetering on the edge of famine.

In addition to working to ensure that the needs of people in, and fleeing from, Ukraine are met, the U.N. World Food Programme is working around the clock to make sure critical supplies to its operations around the world suffer minimal interruption.

This story originally appeared on WFP’s Stories on March 3, 2022 and was written by WFP staff.

WFP teams are on the ground providing urgently needed food and support to the Ukrainian people. Donate today to send urgently needed food.