Olena, 34, is a mother of two – and a Ukrainian refugee in Moldova. Photo: Ingrid Prestetun / NRC

International news

One year on from the escalation of armed conflict in Ukraine, a new survey by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reveals that seven out of ten refugees from Ukraine living in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Romania, and Moldova are at risk of falling into poverty. The NRC’s “Hidden Hardship” report highlights the financial struggles of refugees from Ukraine, who are facing increased financial pressure after fleeing from war.

The report found that refugees are not receiving enough income and support to cover their basic needs, with 68 percent of respondents saying they are not able to cover essentials like food, water, clothing, accommodation, and healthcare. Mothers with children, pensioners, people with disabilities, and those without regular employment income are among those facing the most financial pressure.

The most common negative trend identified was skipping meals and eating less nutritious food, with around 45 percent of refugees in Poland, Moldova, and Romania taking these measures to reduce living costs. Many respondents also reported moving to substandard housing to reduce their costs, and more people in Moldova – particularly the Roma community – have resorted to borrowing money since they fled Ukraine.

The report highlights the trauma and brutal reality of war and how it tears families apart, with 44 percent of respondents saying they had to leave family members behind as they fled Ukraine. One female respondent living in Poland said, “You bear a strong psychological load. You do not know what awaits you tomorrow.”

NRC is calling on host countries and international donors to ensure the continued protection of refugees from Ukraine by developing policies that will prevent people from falling into further hardship. The organization stresses the need for targeted and tailored social protection, continued humanitarian assistance, and long-term structural support to ensure refugees can live a dignified life and not suffer further deteriorations in living standards, depletion of personal savings, or dependence on aid.

The report complements NRC’s previous study on push and pull factors for refugees returning to Ukraine in 2022, in order to better understand the situation of people who had decided to stay outside of Ukraine. It also highlights the challenges that many Ukrainians face in receiving adequate support or becoming self-sufficient in host countries.

NRC has been assisting people affected by the conflict in Ukraine since 2014, and after the February 2022 escalation of armed conflict, it significantly scaled up its response inside Ukraine and started programming to support people fleeing the war and seeking safety in Poland, Romania, and Moldova. Most of its work supporting refugees in these three countries is with several national partners that are experts in their local contexts.

The findings of this report highlight the ongoing challenges faced by refugees from Ukraine and the need for continued support from the international community. It is essential that policies are put in place to prevent people from falling into further hardship and ensure that refugees can live a dignified life, even as they are forced to flee their homes and leave behind their loved ones, homes, and livelihoods.