Ukraine: Two years on

22 February 2024

Two years since the escalation of the Russia-Ukraine armed conflict, fighting and shelling are still everyday realities for millions of people living in Ukraine.  

The scale of destruction is immense. Ukrainians have lost their loved ones, homes, livelihoods, and are struggling to get the basics necessary for survival.  

Recent research by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) shows more than half the people in Ukraine, and Ukrainians living in neighbouring European countries, are still struggling to meet their basic needs – such as medical assistance, accommodation, and employment. 

Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers alongside emergency services providing first aid to residents of Mykolaiv who were injured as a result of shelling on 7 February 2024.

Winter conditions compound the difficulties for people who are often living in damaged houses or temporary shelter. Water, gas, and electricity supplies are limited. In the hardest-hit areas, people face daily shortages of food, water, and medical care.

More than six million people have fled their country to live in neighbouring countries, or further afield. Many of them are also in dire need. 

Many are being forced into debt or to accept underpaid, unregulated, or dangerous employment. On top of that, the toll on their mental health is mounting.

New Zealand Red Cross is one of the 58 National Societies responding to the needs of people affected by the conflict.  New Zealanders have been very generous as the conflict has unfolded contributing to our Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal. 

New Zealand Red Cross – part of the Movement’s support 

In the past two years, the Red Cross Red Crescent Movement has helped 18 million people across 60 countries who’ve been affected by this crisis, with immediate relief.  It has also provided almost two million people with health care, including more than a million with mental health and psychosocial support.

Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers, assisting communities in Ukraine.

More than two million Ukrainians who’ve fled their homeland have received housing support in neighbouring countries from host communities. The Red Cross Red Crescent National Societies in those countries have been offering language classes, setting up community groups, vocational training and employment assistance to support people to connect better with local communities and help them become more self-sufficient.  

As part of the Movement, we launched our Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal to support those affected by the conflict. 

The generous support of New Zealanders has enabled us to contribute to the Movement’s Global Appeal and support people affected by the conflict, send our specialist delegates to the region, and assist Ukrainians who’ve come to New Zealand recently to find employment. 

In 2022, the Movement launched a 129 million Swiss francs (NZD$238 million) cash programme for displaced Ukrainians, both within their country and in neighbouring countries. This is the Movement’s largest-ever humanitarian cash programme. New Zealand Red Cross international delegate Natalie Gyles spent several months in countries bordering Ukraine with the Red Cross Red Crescent cash team. 

Cash assistance is a lifeline for more than a million people in Ukraine and across Europe, preventing them from falling into debt, and helping them with rent and utilities, healthcare, and education expenses.  Natalie initiated the roll out of a mobile phone app, originally developed for the Romanian Red Cross. The app transformed the ability to register people and provide assistance at scale for Romania and Poland, with smaller distributions in Slovakia and Hungary. 

“People who have fled the conflict are not all in one place. Offering a mobile phone app allows eligible people to register for assistance online from wherever they are, without needing to travel to a central registration location,” Natalie says.

Hungarian Red Cross volunteer playing with children at a Red Cross shelter in Hungary.

Vice president of New Zealand Red Cross, John Dyer, also deployed to Ukraine in 2022. Based in the west of the country, he developed a security framework to enable Red Cross teams to operate in as safe and secure manner as possible. “It’s about ensuring our people can help the people in need in Ukraine in a safe way. We’ve put that plan in place, and I left capable people to work through it.” 

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a new team, Pathways to Employment – Ukraine, began working in Auckland almost a year ago. To date, 64 Ukrainians are being assisted on their road to employment by the team and 26 have been assisted into paid work. Nearly 600 Ukrainians have arrived here under the family sponsorship scheme and are not provided with government benefit support. The employment service includes support with English language skills, updating CVs, validation of existing qualifications, understanding workplace culture, and matching jobs to individual skills.  

More information  

New Zealand Red Cross’ International delegate deployments

Pathways to Employment – Ukraine

Employment support for Ukrainians in New Zealand 

If you are an employer and interested in supporting the programme, please contact

IFRC’s media release, Ukraine

Two years on, IFRC warns of increasing debt creating unstable futures for millions Ukraine: Two years on, IFRC warns of increasing debt creating unstable futures for millions 

IMPACT survey

Regional longitudinal survey with Ukrainian refugees and returnees


If you’d like to donate to our Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal

Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis Appeal 

Header image: ICRC employees/volunteers delivering heating materials to families in Lyman, Ukraine to protect against harsh winter conditions. Copyright: ICRC