Bratislava, 23 February – 24 February marks one year since the escalation of the war in Ukraine, triggering the largest and fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since the Second World War. The devastation and destruction inside Ukraine have been staggering, uprooting a third of the population. Over 8 million people, 78 percent of whom are women and children, have fled Ukraine, and 100,000 have sought refuge in Slovakia. One year after the first air raid sirens were heard above Kyiv, the protection, health care and education needs of those that left Ukraine remain high.

Slovakia responded quickly, effectively, and compassionately by mobilizing a large wave of solidarity for a humanitarian response that involved state institutions and municipalities, as well as civil society organizations and individuals, from its onset. Many Slovak families have opened their doors or donated time and resources to welcome refugees from Ukraine. The Government of Slovakia generously kept borders open and led the response to the Ukraine refugee situation.

IOM, UNHCR, UNICEF and WHO were among the 21 organizations who joined forces, under the umbrella of the Regional Refugee Response Plan to provide humanitarian assistance, focusing on accommodation, access to health and mental health support, education, legal counselling, specialized services for survivors of gender-based violence, as well as cash assistance for the most vulnerable families.

“Everyone fleeing war in Ukraine needs support and a safe place where they and their family can recover,” said Zuzana Vatráľová, Head of IOM’s Office in Slovakia. “IOM is proud to collaborate with our international and local partners to ensure that people in need have access to adequate support and services. Helping displaced people to get back on their feet and restart life in Slovakia can significantly benefit all of us.”

Throughout 2022, UN agencies were present at border crossing points, transit and reception centres, collective sites, help desks and other areas where people who fled the war continued to arrive or seek help. Overall, the inter-agency refugee response supported over 152,000 refugees, including those who moved onwards. For immediate needs, support was provided to the Government’s Material Needs cash assistance programme, and to the Government Carer's Grant of Persons with Disability and Specific Needs, reaching nearly 60,000 people including refugees.

In terms of community support, five Blue Dot Safe Spaces, Protection and Support Hubs were established over the last year, providing support and services for over 67,000 children and their families entering Slovakia, including mental health and psychosocial support. Online and remote assistance was provided to people from Ukraine through the IOM Migration Information Centre. As the war continues, ensuring efforts to include people in society have been imperative, including educational programmes, language and vocational courses, and socio-cultural activities.

“One of the main goals,” said Ms. Danijela Popovic-Efendic, UNHCR Head of National Office Slovakia, “is to ensure the inclusion of refugees in Slovak society. Refugees have valuable knowledge, professional skills and experience that are needed in Slovakia. Supporting them to find employment will enable them to rebuild their lives, help the Slovak economy, and actively contribute to their host communities in Slovakia”.

It is crucial that refugees and others in need continue to be included in national systems such as for health and education services. In addressing the medical and, in particular, the urgent mental health needs of Ukrainian refugees, the UN worked together with the Government to provide quality health services, as well as to ensure the provision of supplies, vaccines, medicines, and other equipment. Over 52,000 refugees, mostly children and women, accessed primary health care services, and 41,000 consultations were provided for mental health and psychosocial support.

“Since the beginning of the crisis, WHO expanded its operations in Slovakia with ultimate goals to ensure access to health care services for refugees and protect public health in host communities,” said Dr Tatul Hakobyan - WHO representative to the Slovak Republic. “Continuous monitoring and assessment of refugees’ health needs, advocating for comprehensive strategy for universal health coverage, capacity building of public health institutions and provision of essential medical care, supplies and equipment just to mention among many interventions.”

“Children are always the greatest victims of war and displacement,” said Michaela Bauer, Country Coordinator of the UNICEF Emergency Response in Slovakia. “But thanks to the solidarity and kindness of volunteers, teachers, doctors, and everyone else that opened their doors and their hearts to Ukrainians that fled the war, many children can now feel safe and reclaim at least part of their childhood.”

With the large number of children who have fled Ukraine, education remains a key priority. The education response reached over 42,000 children through formal and informal education and provided school supplies to over 23,000 children. It also created 3,500 new places in 183 kindergartens and opened 23 Play and Learning Hubs across Slovakia. The Hubs were attended by over 5,800 Ukrainian and Slovak children from 0 to 6 years old.

Approximately 17.6 million people in Ukraine continue to urgently need assistance, and over 8 million Ukrainians who have been forced to flee the country as refugees. The support across states, host communities and families has been immense. As the war in Ukraine and the resulting displacement continue, and needs remain high, it is imperative that solidarity and action for response and inclusion continue, including for the over 100,000 Ukrainian refugees in Slovakia.

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About the UN agencies

IOM, the International Organization for Migration, is the leading inter-governmental organization in the field of migration. With 175 member states and presence in over 100 countries, IOM is committed to the principle that humane and orderly migration benefits migrants and society.

UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting rights and building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people.

UNICEF, the United Nations Children’s Fund, works in some of the world’s toughest places, to reach the world’s most disadvantaged children. Across more than 190 countries and territories, we work for every child, everywhere, to build a better world for everyone.

WHO, World Health Organization is the United Nations agency that connects nations, partners and people to promote health, keep the world safe and serve the vulnerable – so everyone, everywhere can attain the highest level of health.


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