Ukraine Conflict: Facts and How to Help

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Conflict in Ukraine

What's happening in Ukraine?

A humanitarian crisis is unfolding in Ukraine after Russia invaded the country from three sides in the early hours of Thursday, February 24. Cities across the country have been bombed, including the capital city of Kyiv and the eastern city of Kharkiv. More than 8 million people have now fled the country for safety in neighboring countries like Poland, Romania, and Moldova and an estimated 7.7 million are displaced within Ukraine. More than half of Ukraine’s children have been displaced and nearly 4,500 civilian deaths have been reported. This displacement crisis is the fastest exodus in Europe since World War II.

Conflict is not new to Ukraine. The country previously fought with Russia in 2014, which forced 1.3 million people from their homes and claimed 14,000 lives. Throughout this time, Caritas Ukraine, with support from CRS, has been providing emergency relief and recovery.

Our Experts

Catholic Relief Services experts can provide information and interviews about how war in Ukraine will affect millions of people in the region and how neighboring countries are responding to the needs of Ukrainian refugees. Please email [email protected] to schedule an interview.



Megan Gilbert

Regional Communications Officer for Europe, Middle East, Central Asia

[email protected]


Ukraine Fast Facts


Year Ukraine officially declared independence

7.3 Million

Number of refugees that have recently fled Ukraine

41 million

Population of Ukraine

CRS Response to Ukraine Invasion

In Ukraine

Since the start of the conflict, CRS partners Caritas Ukraine (of the Ukrainian Greek Catholic Church) and Caritas Spes (of the Roman Catholic Church) have supported nearly 2 million people. This includes providing food for more than 1.3 million people; distributing more than 105,000 hygiene kits; and medicine and medical support for more than 55,000 people. They have transformed churches into child-friendly spaces, provided food at train stations, and provided transportation to borders. Recent assessments have identified new needs for long-term shelter for displaced families as well as a greater focus on counseling and mental health support, including for staff.

CRS is continuing to provide support to Caritas Ukraine and Caritas Spes on:

  • Food assistance; field kitchens that provide hot lunches and snacks
  • Reception services at Caritas offices, train stations and other locations for displaced people with clothing, information, referrals, food, water, hygiene items, and counseling services.
  • Transportation of displaced families to friends, families, and local social services.
  • Evacuation centers providing shelter, food, and counseling services for displaced families. These centers will include support to address emotional care including case management and child-friendly spaces. Caritas Ukraine and Caritas Spes provide temporary shelter to approximately 1,400 people a day.

CRS staff have also been working with neighboring Caritas partners to transport supplies into Ukraine through Poland. Caritas Ukraine and Caritas Spes have received more than 850 tons of humanitarian cargo, of which 450 tons have been sent into conflict zones. No other organization - national or international - is responding at the level of our Caritas partners inside Ukraine.

In Moldova

CRS support is growing to meet the influx of refugees to Moldova and is preparing for longer-term assistance. That support includes:

  • Food and living supplies. Over 1,000 hot meals are being distributed daily at government-run refugee centers. Beds and other living supplies are being provided at these centers as well.
  • Cash assistance. CRS and Caritas Moldova have opened eight cash centers and provided nearly $2 million in cash assistance to more than 69,000 people.
  • Protection and psycho-social support: The CRS Moldova Changing the Way We Care team delivered online safeguarding and protection training to over 200 frontline staff and volunteers from Moldova and Romania on recognizing risks for abuse and exploitation, “do no harm” principles, response steps and tips for reducing risk.

In Romania

Romania receives thousands of new Ukrainian refugees daily and with ongoing CRS support, Caritas Romania is providing short-term housing and hot meals in 17 reception centers. In Bucharest, Caritas continues to support new arrivals and provides transportation to accommodation centers and access to embassies. CRS has also developed a partnership with International Orthodox Christian Charities to expand reception centers and accommodation support to locations not covered by Caritas.

CRS' Erik Heinonen, who lived with his family in Irpin, Ukraine, recently spoke with CRS communication officer Megan Gilbert about the challenges they faced as they fled Ukraine when the war began, and how he and CRS are now supporting refugees in Romania:

In Poland

More than 3.5 million Ukrainians have fled to Poland, and Caritas Poland continues to provide food, shelter, counseling, and supplies at eight border crossings.

Working with the Ministry of Family and Social Affairs, Caritas also continues to provide accommodation and support to a growing number of unaccompanied children at centers in 8 dioceses. With technical support from CRS, new programming is being developed, including:

  • Cash assistance to an initial 2,000 refugee households in four dioceses
  • Piloting of a registration technology for a cash program that will reach an initial 150,000 households
  • Cross-border transport of food packets and relief supplies
  • Design of materials and training to roll out Caritas Poland's safeguarding policy to all 45 dioceses

In Hungary

Caritas Hungary is responsible for providing refugees with food, water, services for mothers and children, and onward transport at one of the country’s six border crossings. To date, Caritas has provided support to over 10,000 people at their reception center and over 60,000 in Budapest. CRS is assisting Caritas Hungary with developing a medium-term program to assist Ukrainian refugees as well as developing counseling support services and an Integration Center in Budapest.

In The Balkans

CRS is providing staff support and funding to Caritas Croatia, who are caring for Ukrainian refugees from locations across the country. In Montenegro, CRS has begun to fund Caritas efforts to support refugee families with housing, hot meals, hygiene kits, and counseling. We are also assisting Caritas with providing educational support to refugee children and the opening of several new reception centers. In Bosnia and Herzegovina, CRS is funding local non-profit Marijine Ruke Medjugorje to distribute emergency food to Ukrainian families.


Read more about CRS' ongoing work in Ukraine.


Where is Ukraine?

Ukraine is located in eastern Europe and borders several countries including Poland, Belarus, Hungary, and Russia. It is the second-largest country in Europe after Russia and has more than 1,600 miles of coastline along the Black Sea.

What is happening in Ukraine?

In the early hours of February 24, Russian forces began a military assault on Ukraine, shelling major cities across the country, including the capital of Kyiv. This invasion into eastern Ukraine comes after months of a large-scale Russian military staging at the Ukraine/Russia border.

How long has there been a war in Ukraine?

Fighting in Ukraine has been ongoing since 2014, after Russia annexed an area in Ukraine called Crimea. While a ceasefire was reached between the two countries in 2015, tensions in eastern Ukraine have been heightened ever since and shelling of communities has continued.

Is Ukraine a part of Russia?

Ukraine has not been a part of Russia since August 24, 1991, when the country officially declared its independence from what was then known as the Soviet Union. The United States officially recognized Ukraine's independence on Christmas Day, 1991.

What kind of help do Ukrainians need?

As war begins in Ukraine, millions across the country are going to need emergency assistance including shelter, food, and water. As the Ukrainian people are forced to live in an active warzone, there will also be an increased need for emotional support.

How can I help people in Ukraine?

While the needs of the Ukrainian people are sure to shift as the situation throughout the country unfolds, the best way to assist right now is with your prayers, donations, and advocacy. Pope Francis has called for an end to the fighting, and CRS is currently accepting donations to support humanitarian aid in Ukraine.

Do you listen to what locals and the refugees themselves have to say about what help they need?

The first thing CRS does is listen to our local partners, local communities, and affected communities in order to work with them to design our programs. Our strategy, which spans the 2018 - 2030 period is called "In Their Own Hands." As we know, it is the local people who control their own destiny, and we are lucky to show our solidarity and also subsidiarity as we ensure they are the principal actors in their own development and deciding how they respond to their own needs.

Has it been difficult to obtain supplies for Ukraine?

Supplies are more and more difficult to access inside of Ukraine due to the violence and blockades. We are working with local partners to provide assistance in a cross-border manner. Since many supplies are accessible in Europe, the local Caritas teams are requesting that we request cash resources to allow agility in purchasing local items. This will reduce the cost of shipments and time it takes to get the supplies delivered as well as support the local businesses that are assisting in relief efforts.

Can you help us to get the word out?

Follow and retweet @catholicRelief and @CRSNews on Twitter for the latest updates.

Thank you for your compassion. Your support saves lives.