This is the reality Ukrainian women and girls are facing right now

Written by Lauren Geall

As Stylist’s digital writer, Lauren Geall writes on topics including mental health, wellbeing and work. She’s also a big fan of houseplants and likes to dabble in film and TV from time-to-time.

Aid organisations are warning of the risks Ukrainian women and girls are currently facing as they flee the Russian invasion.

As the number of Ukranian refugees fleeing the Russian invasion surpasses 2 million, aid organisations are warning of the crucial need to protect women and girls caught up in the crisis.

With Ukrainian men between the ages of 18-60 being told to stay behind and fight, the majority of the refugees fleeing the country are women and children. 

Conflict, crisis and displacement can put women and girls at increased risk of sexual and physical violence and abuse – and experts are concerned that many of the refugees will be put at risk if not given the correct support.

Speaking exclusively to Stylist, Katie Morrison, who is part of Plan International’s response team in Romania, outlined the situation the women and children arriving in the country are currently facing.  

“We’re meeting women who have fled Ukraine and brought their families to safety, often enduring long, cold journeys and travelling without their partners, who have stayed behind to fight,” Morrison explains. 

“Young girls start to cry when they talk about leaving home, suddenly being on ‘holiday’ from school and, most devastatingly, being separated from their dads.”

Morrison continues: “When they arrive, they are being welcomed and given food, water and shelter. But that’s just the most immediate needs – girls will need access to period products, pregnant women and young mothers need urgent access to healthcare, and without secure systems in place, women who are being offered rooms to stay in may be at risk of violence and exploitation.

“When a crisis hits, women and girls will always have specific needs. We must work with them, both immediately and in the long term, to ensure those needs are met.” 

The Disasters Emergency Committee – of which Plan International is a member – is also warning about the dangers faced by women and girls still in Ukraine, especially when it comes to the lack of healthcare for the estimated 80,000 women who are due to give birth over the next three months.

Ukrainian refugees crossing the border in Medyka, Poland.

There have already been numerous stories about women having to give birth in underground stations while sheltering from bombing – and as hospitals and other healthcare facilities are damaged or destroyed, maternal healthcare will become even harder to access.

“We know the majority of maternal deaths in the world occur in humanitarian crises,” explains Alexandra Parnebjork, Plan International’s gender in emergencies advisor. 

“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.” 

While the situation in Ukraine is developing rapidly, the Disasters Emergency Committee is raising crucial funds to support those affected by the crisis. 

So far, the organisation’s humanitarian appeal has raised over £100m – funds which will be used to provide medical support, counselling, providing safe spaces for women and children and giving out dignity kits containing items such as underwear, period products and soap.

To find out more and donate to the Disasters Emergency Committee’s appeal, you can check out their website. 

Images: Getty

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