The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, has produced the largest refugee crisis in Europe this century. In less than a week, 1 million residents – mostly women and children – fled their homes. Every crisis goes through phases. Right now, Ukrainians face urgent needs for medical care and basic needs like food, water, and fuel.
Below you’ll find how to help. This guidance is based on our team’s analysis of dozens of news sources, websites, newsletters and reports; interviews of individuals with firsthand knowledge of the needs on the ground and what can help; our participation in webinars focused on an effective philanthropic response to the Ukraine Humanitarian Crisis and more than 15 years of experience developing guidance on how individual donors and institutional grantmakers can best respond to a crisis.
Pooled funds that can respond to the needs as they inevitably evolve
In any humanitarian crisis, the situation on the ground can shift suddenly. Intermediary funds pool donations from many donors and have connections to grassroots organizations, businesses, and governments. As a result, they play a critical role in a crisis of this scale. Those that were working in Ukraine long before the Russian invasion are in the best position to help because they already bring local knowledge and networks.
GlobalGiving has supported other nonprofits by connecting them to donors and companies since 2002. Donations to their Ukrainian Crisis Relief Fund support local partners in providing shelter, food, and clean water for refugees, health and psychosocial support, and access to education and economic assistance.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is currently reinforcing existing operations in Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia, and Romania by sending more staff, resources, and relief items to the region to support refugees. In Ukraine, they work with Mission Proliska (Luhansk, Donetsk) to provide direct humanitarian assistance and have also launched a Ukraine Humanitarian Fund.
The King Baudouin Foundation US launched a Humanitarian Response Fund for Ukraine pooling contributions to be distributed to three local nonprofits working on the frontlines – Caritas Ukraine, People in Need Ukraine, and the Polish Red Cross. These organizations work to provide food, shelter, and medical assistance to vulnerable people in Ukraine and seeking refuge across borders.
Nonprofits currently addressing medical needs
The war is creating complex health emergencies. Those injured need urgent surgical, medical, and trauma supplies and care. Even before the invasion, Ukraine had been grappling with a Polio outbreak and the COVID pandemic, complicating health care delivery in Ukraine and neighboring countries.
International Medical Corps (IMC) has been working in Ukraine since 2014 to increase access to medical services and mental health and psychosocial support services in partnership with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health and local organizations. The organization’s team inside the country is providing hygiene kits, blankets, and other critical items for refugees at special reception centers as well as mental health support and gender-based violence response services to refugees.
Razom for Ukraine is a diaspora-led organization responding to the attack on Ukraine by providing medical supplies and amplifying the voices of Ukrainians. Like many other diaspora organizations, this nonprofit formed after the 2014 annexation of Crimea and has hyper local connections to Ukrainian communities.
Nonprofits meeting basic needs like food, water, and fuel
Given the scale of harm in Ukraine and forcible displacement, there is an urgent need for food, safe drinking water, shelter, and transportation. Whole energy systems (heat, fuel) are being impacted in Ukraine – critical disruptions in the cold weather.
CARE is working with partner organizations like People in Need to provide emergency assistance to the people of Ukraine affected by this crisis, focusing on distributing urgently needed emergency supplies such as food, water, hygiene kits, and cash to cover daily needs. Specialized staff also provides additional psychosocial support to mitigate the psychological consequences and trauma of the conflict. Donors can give to a specialized Ukraine crisis fund, which CARE estimates will reach 4 million people.
World Central Kitchen (WCK) has responded to natural disasters, man-made crises, and humanitarian emergencies around the world to get meals to the people who need them most. Within hours of the initial invasion, WCK has been working at a 24-hour pedestrian border crossing in southern Poland as well as supporting local restaurants preparing meals in five Ukrainian cities including Odessa and Lviv. There are also WCK teams on the ground in Romania and Moldova and arriving to Slovakia and Hungary to support families in need.
Nonprofits with a particular focus on women and children
The Ukrainian President has ordered men between the ages of 18 and 60 to stay and fight. As a result, women and children are fleeing Ukraine on their own. These organizations are already working in Ukraine and have particular expertise in meeting the unique needs of women and children.
Voices of Children, a Ukrainian grassroots organization operating since 2015, is working on the frontlines in Donetsk and Luhansk to provide children and families affected by war with psychological services. The organization is currently assisting families evacuating the country as well as providing emergency psychological assistance.
Urgent Action Fund for Women’s Human Rights is supporting women, trans, and nonbinary people in and surrounding Ukraine through flexible funding and security support to in-country grantees and partners like the Ukrainian Women’s Fund, the only Ukraine-based women’s fund. They are currently responding to requests from people on the ground seeking support with emergency evacuations and relocations, legal, financial, and medical support, security and disaster survival training, increasing shelter capacities for women and children, and access to alternative communication channels.
 VOA. “Ukraine Fighting Polio and COVID Before Russian Invasion.” VOA News, 28 February 2022, https://www.voanews.com/a/ukraine-fighting-polio-and-covid-before-russian-invasion-/6462750.html. Accessed 2 March 2022.