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OSCE | Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

OSCE Special Representative on Youth and Security and Senior Gender Adviser visit Polish-Ukrainian border to assess situation of women and children fleeing war in Ukraine

OSCE | Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe

8 July 2022

Special Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office on Youth and Security Maria Raczynska and OSCE Senior Adviser on Gender Issues Lara Scarpitta visited the Polish-Ukrainian border on 4 and 5 July 2022 where they gathered information on the situation of refugees from Ukraine, as 1.2 million (94 % of whom are women and children), are officially registered, with access to health care, education and employment.

"In Poland, society, government, and local administration have displayed enormous solidarity and compassion to the victims of the Russian aggression against Ukraine. But the conflict and needs are far from over. We must do whatever we can to put an end to the war and ensure it does not happen again. At the same time, we must also remember that those young people who seek shelter and our support, will be those who shape the future," Raczynska said.

"I visited reception centres and transit points at train stations. The emergency is far from over. There are still hundreds of women and children arriving from Ukraine daily. Poland deserves praise for taking on a major responsibility in the face of the refugee crisis caused by this war," Scarpitta said.

She also underlined the need to address the risks of human trafficking in light of the number of women and children fleeing the war in Ukraine and strengthen response to these challenges.

However, Scarpitta cautioned that a second large wave of refugees can be expected after the summer months, caused largely by the escalation in the armed conflict and the economic situation in Ukraine, but also the lack of fuel and some basic goods.:

"The situation for the neighboring host countries is particularly demanding: Rental prices for housing have sky rocketed, there is a chronic shortage of childcare facilities and the education system is already under strain as is struggles to accommodate additional children."

Lack of access to childcare represents an additional obstacle for women accessing the labour market, making some women and children vulnerable to prostitution and exploitation, including trafficking.

"I was glad to see the high level of awareness of the risks of trafficking in human beings, especially for young girls and boys who arrived unaccompanied. Services for victims of sexual and gender-based violence need to be strengthened, though," said the OSCE Senior Gender Adviser.

At the same time, Scarpitta expressed her appreciation for the work that the UNHCR, NGOS and local authorities are doing to provide support and safe spaces for the most vulnerable.

"The war has taken a massive toll on every single person, but in particular women and girls. More assistance is needed both in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries. The OSCE will remain engaged in these efforts," Scarpitta said.

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