Refugees in Focus

What’s happening to Ukrainians?

As the conflict in Ukraine escalates, women and children are pouring out of the country in their thousands. Many of them face new levels of suffering and hardship. Reports of Rape and kidnapping are already flooding in from aid agencies as refugees struggle to find suitable accommodation. For those who remain and are living underground, large-scale hostilities and bombing across the region, exposes them to constant peril. Families under siege need urgent medical support and help to stay alive and this is where you can help.

How You Can Help

War has heavily impacted the lives of children in Ukraine and their plight is only set to get worse. Access to medical aid, shelter, water and schooling are all affected.

In the wake of Covid, this conflict will only mean further hardship for children across Ukraine, both in the short and long term.

Eleven years of conflict has left thousands of children traumatised. Conflict across Europe is only adding to the toll.

Access to quality health care services and emergency medical supplies is very limited for children in war torn countries.

Thousands of women and children at risk from Sex Traffickers

What is LifeHealth Doing?

Sex traffickers are targeting Ukrainian women and children who have fled Vladimir Putin’s bombs at Polish refugee camps, charities have warned.
The criminals are offering unaccompanied female refugees promises of safe accommodation and free transport, posing as good Samaritans to lure them away from the safety of official checkpoints.
Charity workers on the Polish-Ukrainian border have warned that the sex traffickers are working alone or in gangs to target the women and children who are an ‘easy target’. Over 10 million refugees have fled Ukraine in recent weeks, including more than 3 million to Poland. Most of those fleeing are women and children, as Ukrainian men from age 18 to 60 have been banned from leaving the country to stay and fight.
‘We’ve registered the first cases of [suspected] pimps preying on Ukrainian women near refugee shelter points in Lublin; accosting them, sometimes aggressively, under the guise of offering transport, work or accommodation,’ Karolina Wierzbińska, a coordinator at the human rights organisation Homo Faber in the Polish city of Lublin, told the Guardian.
‘These are not only men,’ she said. ‘There are also women attempting to procure female refugees at bus stations.’ Sex traffickers are targeting Ukrainian women and children who have fled Vladimir Putin’s bombs at Polish refugee camps, charities have warned. Pictured: Women with children are seen outside the train station Przemysl, southeastern Poland, near the Polish-Ukrainian border, on Thursday.
Wierzbińska said she has seen teams of people working together, or multiple couples, travelling to the Polish border and pretending to offer them rides in an effort to lure them into cars. ‘[We see teams] waiting for people arriving from Ukraine and pretending to offer rides or lodging to women distressed and exhausted from their journey,’ she said. ‘We’re also seeing multiple couples, typically a male and a female, having travelled to the border by car, attempting to lure women using similar tactics. We intervene in such cases by approaching the person acting suspiciously and asking them to register in our volunteer directory – in response to which they typically run away.’
Some groups of men have arrived in the town wearing military uniform, claiming they are there to protect women and children refugees after human rights organisations raised fears that the refugee crisis would see a ‘disturbing spike in human trafficking’.
‘I couldn’t even focus, because that could have been my sister, my daughter,’ said one man who is part of the vigilante group. ‘I think nothing’s being controlled,’ he said. ‘I’ve seen women who are scared, and kids are showing up at the border and no one knows where the parents are. It’s such an easy target.’
Though the Medyka authorities had prepared some facilities in advance for the arrival of refugees, the town was still overwhelmed with the thousands of people arriving at the same time and needing shelter, food, medicines and most of all, warmth and comfort. Police in the town are able to stop some cars who have offered lifts to Ukrainian refugees, but many cars pass without being inspected.
‘The issue with human trafficking is that most of the transports that happen are not organised,’ a Polish Red Cross volunteer told the newspaper.’They are volunteers who arrive from all kinds of places in their private cars. So at all the reception points, you have different organisations trying to set up a system of tracing and tracking.’ Unicef said vigilante groups acting separately from the Polish authorities were concerning. ‘I can’t speak for the authorities in Poland … [but] security is effectively their domain,’ said Joe English, a Unicef spokesperson. ‘I think any kind of vigilantism is an unnerving development.’ Missing Children Europe told the Guardian that unaccompanied minors were continuing to disappear at the borders. ‘There are so many children […] that we lost track of,’ said Aagje Ieven, secretary general of Missing Children Europe. ‘This is a huge problem, not just because it means they easily go missing, and are difficult to find, but also because it makes trafficking so easy.’