The humanitarian crisis in Ukraine and its global impacts: aid chiefs speak at a Forum Agenda Dialogue

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This article is brought to you thanks to the collaboration of The European Sting with the World Economic Forum.

Author: Robin Pomeroy, Podcast Editor, World Economic Forum


  • A child flees Ukraine almost every second, humanitarian agencies report.
  • Huge concerns for welfare of children, both inside and outside Ukraine.
  • Crisis risks draining aid from other places in desperate need.
  • Aid chiefs raise their priorities in a discussion at the World Economic Forum

As war rages in Ukraine, leaders from global humanitarian agencies joined a World Economic Forum Agenda Dialogue to say what they need from governments and business to tackle the crisis, and explain what the knock-on impacts will be around the world.

Moderated by:

Børge Brende, President, World Economic Forum

Adrian Monck, Managing Director, World Economic Forum, Member of the Managing Board

Panelists:

David Beasley, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

Kelly Clements, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Catherine Russell, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Inger Ashing, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International

Transcript of the discussion:

Adrian Monck: Hello, I’m Adrian Monck in New York. Thank you all for joining us today for this special agenda dialogue on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.

This dialogue comes almost one month into the war, an unfortunate milestone in this ongoing tragedy. Each day over the past four weeks we’ve seen pictures of the devastation, watched footage of communities destroyed, and read harrowing accounts of the lost lives. It’s vital that we continue to bear witness to what’s unfolding in Ukraine, but also that we take action to assist those in need. This is why the forum has brought together the heads of leading humanitarian organisations to walk us through what’s taking place on the ground and share ways that the public and the private sectors can support the humanitarian response.

With us today. Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme David Beasley, Executive Director of UNICEF Cathy Russell, Deputy High Commissioner of the UN Refugee Agency Kelly Clements, and the CEO of Save the Children, Inger Ashing. Thank you for joining us.

Leading today’s discussion is my colleague and President of the World Economic Forum Børge Brende. Børge, handing the floor to you.

Børge Brende: Thank you, Adrian in New York. Good afternoon from Geneva. Indeed, we are really at a moment few of us could have imagined only weeks ago. When you look at the pictures of destruction of hospitals, airports, schools, cities, it’s a tragedy. What is happening in Kiev, Kharkiv, Mariupol, Odessa and elsewhere is truly shocking.

Since February 24th, over 3.3 million people have fled Ukraine for neighbouring countries. This comes on top of the nearly 6.5 million Ukrainians that are now IDPs – internally displaced. As the UN High Commissioner, Filippo Grandi, said the other day, he has rarely seen anything like this and such rapid, unfortunate development.

In addition to the humanitarian crisis, the International Monetary Fund, IMF, warned that the global economy will slow as we feel the effects of rising prices on food, fuel and other essentials. And we can just imagine what consequences this will have also on poverty and extreme poverty. If we don’t turn this, we will be nowhere close to meeting the SDGs by 2030, eradicating all extreme poverty.

So in response to the crisis, teams from the UN and aid organisations have been working 24/7 to provide life saving support on the ground. This is crucial. But access is more questionable, and Russia is not complying with basic humanitarian law in this respect. And we have seen unprecedented, fortunately, support from also the business community. Not only have over 400 global companies at the World Economic Forum withdrawn from Russia, hundreds are raising funds or using their networks to directly assist those in need.

But there is so much more we must do. So I’m very pleased to have such a good cast of the leading humanitarians of the world with us. And let me start with Cathy Russell, executive director of UNICEF. We know UNICEF is dealing the most vulnerable amongst us – children. There are 7.5 million children in Ukraine, 1.5 million of whom are now refugees. I know, Cathy, that you recently returned from the region. Could you give us a sense of what is taking place on the ground and share the impact of the crisis on the children and their families? Thank you for joining.

Catherine Russell: Thank you very much for focusing your first question on children because I think the war in Ukraine is most definitely a child protection crisis, so I’d like to make a couple of points. First, today, as you noted, the war continues to escalate in multiple locations. Some cities are completely besieged at this point, and we’ve all seen the pictures. Nothing is safe from attack and nothing is sacred. Schools, kindergartens, orphanages, maternity hospitals, water systems, power plants, theatres. Unexploded ordnances and mines now litter communities where children used to play and go to school. Dozens of children have been killed and wounded. The UN can verify 64 child casualties and that number is likely to grow at this point.

Inside Ukraine, children and their families are hiding in basements and sheltering in train stations. Millions have little or no access to safe water or adequate sanitation and hygiene, and millions of children obviously are out of school.

Food insecurity is growing even if food is available, and it’s not safe to go outside and buy it. And it may be the first day of spring, but it’s still very cold in Ukraine at this point.

UNICEF and our partners are doing everything we can to reach children and families in Ukraine. We have a Ukraine country office there and it remains operational under very difficult circumstances. I’ve been in touch with the staff there and they’re doing truly heroic work, and there’s no other word for it. Ensuring their safety and security is our highest priority, and I keep saying that to them: I know how important your work is. I know how dedicated you are – and these people are truly amazing – but please try to keep your safety top of mind. It’s a very, very tough operating environment. Humanitarian access is limited with rapidly changing minds, making it very challenging to deliver critical services and supplies.

But we are getting things through. As of March 17th, we dispatched 85 trucks carrying 858 tonnes of emergency supplies to support children and families in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. And just this past week, we delivered supplies across Ukraine to the war affected cities of Kiev, Kharkiv and Sumy. The supplies these trucks are carrying paint a real picture of the situation on the ground in Ukraine and in the neighbouring countries. Surgical supplies, oxygen, oxygen concentrators, obstetric equipment and midwifery kids, maternity kits, family hygiene kits, diapers and disinfectants, dignity kits for menstruating girls and women, bottled water, blankets, water and clothes. Around 34 of these trucks are already inside Ukraine and more are on the way.

We estimate that 55 children flee Ukraine every single minute – that’s nearly one child every second.—Catherine Russell, Executive Director, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF)

Outside Ukraine the refugee crisis has grown so rapidly and exponentially, and so has the risk to millions of women and children on the move. Half of the 3 million people, as you mentioned, have been forced to flee Ukraine are children. We estimate that 55 children flee Ukraine every single minute, and that’s nearly one child every second.

I was recently on the border, as you mentioned, of Romania, where almost half a million people, mainly women and children, have crossed to escape the violence. They’re travelling with next to nothing, as you can imagine. The children have their little backpacks on, the mothers are usually dragging a roller bag behind them. Some of them really only have the clothes that they managed to grab before they left.

The women talked about the difficulty of their journeys and their concerns for their children’s safety. The children talked about being pulled out of school and mostly about missing their dads and their worry for their fathers. So the children have been traumatised already, and we know that that’s just going to continue.

The women and children are vulnerable in so many ways, including to exploitation and abuse, which is one of our primary concerns at this point. The threat of trafficking is real and growing, especially for children who become separated from their families.

UNICEF and UNHCR are setting up safe spaces for women and children at border crossings, in reception and transit areas, in all the neighbouring countries. These are things we call ‘Blue Dot‘ areas. You may have seen them in some of our work that we put out on social media. They provide information, psychosocial support and protection from exploitation and abuse, amongst other critical services. And critically Blue Dots work to identify and protect unaccompanied children, which, as I said, is one of our primary concerns.

Our response in neighbouring countries is focused on supporting the governments to expand their existing social services to women and children fleeing Ukraine. The generosity and compassion we’re seeing in these neighbouring countries is encouraging. We’re grateful that so many refugee families have been able to find temporary housing and help, but I have to really stress, this is not a permanent solution.

I just spent a couple of days in Germany, and the longer-term issues are very present in people’s minds, and I think we’ve got to be very mindful of that.

I want to conclude my answer with two images – some you may have seen on social media. In one image, empty baby strollers line a square in Lviv – a brutal reminder of how many children have been casualties of this war and how many families have been shattered by what’s gone on. In the other image, empty baby strollers have been left at the kerb outside a train station and transit points in neighbouring countries to help women fleeing the war and their children.

One image is obviously one of despair of all the children who have been lost so far, and the other is an image of compassion, but neither is an image of peace. UNICEF and our partners will keep doing everything we can to support Ukraine’s children and families. But really what these children need is for the war to end and for there to be peace. So thank you so much.

Børge Brende: No thank you. Thank you for what you’re doing and UNICEF is doing. It is terrible to see that children are being attacked like this in a war in the 21st century. It’s just utterly unbelievable.

And we know also that there is shortages in every way now in Ukraine being medicine, but also food. And we have David Beasley with us, executive director for World Food Programme. And we know David that, already before Russia’s invasion, food prices jumped by almost 25% over the past year, with wheat prices now hitting record high since the crisis started. Can you paint a picture of what is really taking place in Ukraine in regards to the food situation and also why this will have such impact around the world? Because we know that both Russia and Ukraine are major exporters of food.

David Beasley: You know, just when you think it can’t get any worse, it does. I mean, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, a food and fuel price spike taking place. We were already hit. And I’m sure UNICEF and UNHCR the same thing. We were already hit right before Ukraine crisis with a $42 million increase in operational costs. We were already billions of dollars short for Afghanistan, Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia, the Sahel, let me just go around the world. And then when you think it can’t get worse, here comes Ukraine.

Ukraine grows enough food to feed 400 million people on planet Earth. So when the farmers on the battlefields aren’t planting or aren’t harvesting, what impact do you think that’s going to have?—David Beasley, Executive Director, United Nations World Food Programme (WFP)

And the difficulty here is Ukraine grows enough food to feed 400 million people on planet Earth. So when the farmers on the battlefields aren’t planting or aren’t harvesting, what impact do you think that’s going to have? Fifty percent of our grain, for example, wheat, comes from Ukraine. And then when you put it in the global context of Russia and Ukraine together, not even get into the fertiliser costs and the fertiliser-based products, you’ve got a catastrophe knocking and looming on the door for the fall. That will be not a price issue, but a supply issue, availability of food for people around the world, and that will be a catastrophe on top of a catastrophe.

But in the meantime, inside Ukraine, the people that are making it to the outside, in some ways are the blessed and fortunate ones because the fact they are getting shelter and food in this miserable circumstance. But you’ve got 40 million people left on the inside that if we don’t reach them with the support they need, including food and medicines, et cetera, you’re going to have havoc beyond anything we’ve ever seen before.

We know we are dealing with millions of people on the inside that need support, and how do we reach them, how do we get to them, given the dynamics that we are facing? It’s so bad, it’s just hard to imagine what we’re facing.

We need, for example, just the World Food Programme, to reach 3 million people, about $160 million per month. We now have $141 million committed. And to move the supplies in you need to reach three, four or five million people. You don’t do that in three or four days’ time. We don’t now have the money to buy for the end of the month of April. So we’re short of funding.

What we’re trying to do, in addition to the Ukrainian government, particularly when you know how much grain, barley, wheat, sunflower oils, et cetera, that are produced on the inside of Ukraine, how can we maximise the consumption of those grains inside Ukraine? Because every grain we bring from the outside to the inside is compounding not just on what’s taking place inside Ukraine, but on the outside as well. So every bit of grain of value that is on the inside that we can use as we work with the government to see what they can do, what we do. We’re setting up distribution points all over the country.

Because the incredible support from especially Poland and the European community, where those are making it to the border has been remarkable. Those that make it to Lviv on the western side, is quite remarkable. We’re actually able to say, OK, we don’t need to do much here. Let us make certain that we’re setting up systems in place where hard to reach besieged cities, can’t get into, what do we need to do to deconflict those areas so that we can get the foods, the medicines and the support that Cathy was talking about for children, et cetera, et cetera?

I could go on and on, I know we don’t have that much time, but you can see we’re all hands on deck as we speak. I’ve been into the region already three times just in the last three weeks and will be there back again later this week. But I don’t see it getting any better. I think it’s only going to get worse.

And all of us coordinating, we’re coordinating with UNHCR, for example, in Moldova right now, because Moldova is going to be gravely in the line of fire and it’s going to be a very tenuous situation for for the people of that nation. That’s just another example of the ripple effect and in we go on and on.

But let me say thank you to the European community, how they’ve embraced, with incredible love your neighbour perspective, have helped a lot of people that have come across. But we cannot forget about the 40 million that need our help now.

Let me give this one a little less anecdotal dynamic. We did this in Syria. It didn’t reach the Syrian people. For every Syrian inside Syria that we at the World Food Programme could reach for 50 cents a day. That same Syrian ended up in Berlin or Brussels, it’s over $70 per day. So do the maths. It is quite expensive. So we need to reach people that are not in harm’s way in such a way that we maximise their hope and bring as much support as we possibly can. And let me just stop right there. I could keep on going. Thanks for bringing this really important discussion up.

Børge Brende: No. Thank you for your leadership, David. And as you said, it is when you don’t think it can get any worse it does get worse. And with the multiple crises that you are faced with, being now Ukraine, but we had Afghanistan, we had Yemen, you have Ethiopia, we have Somalia and we have Sudan and other crises too.

So it’s natural then to go to Kelly Clements, as you already mentioned, Deputy High Commissioner at UN refugee agency. Kelly, I think you speak to us today from the European Humanitarian Forum taking place in Brussels. What are you hearing regarding the unprecedented refugee flows from Ukraine into neighbouring countries? What are the conditions they’re faced with? And if you could also touch on the IDP situation inside Ukraine?

We basically have a quarter of Ukraine displaced, either displaced internally or they have become refugees, leaving and going mostly to neighbouring countries who have been phenomenal with their generosity, their humbling hospitality.—Kelly Clements, United Nations Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)

Kelly Clements: Thanks very much for having us on the programme and really just to take off from your opening Børgein terms of what Filippo Grandi said not too long ago, he called it a torrent of misery, being there at the border. David’s just described it. Cathy has described it. You know, we have a situation where people are really pouring out of the country. Those are the ones that can reach safety. You mentioned the numbers. We basically have a quarter of Ukraine displaced, either displaced internally or they have become refugees, leaving and going mostly to neighbouring countries who have been phenomenal with their generosity, their humbling hospitality. And really, in terms of the numbers that we’re talking about, it’s huge.

So 6.5 million internally displaced now, 3.4 million who are refugees, mostly in neighbouring countries. And to get to a point that David just mentioned, 13 million, we estimate, who are stranded or trapped in areas of Ukraine where they can’t reach safety. And this is most troubling. Those are the people, of course, we can’t get the food, the water, the immediate necessities to.

In terms of those people coming to the border, Cathy really set the stage in the scene for you. Most are women, children and the aged – 90%. In many refugee situations like this you’d already have the vast majority who would be women and children. But this is an extraordinary crisis where really we do not see men coming across the border for obvious reasons. Now what does that mean? It means that refugees want to stay close to Ukraine. They want to stay close to their fathers, their brothers, their nephews, their sons. What does that mean, of course, for the neighbouring countries? Well, that the local authorities, the municipalities, the volunteers, people who are really literally opening up their hearts and their homes to be able to host refugees in very large numbers.

In places like Moldova, as David just mentioned, a country which of course has seen a lot of refugees come to this very small country, many people then moving on to other hosts like Romania and Poland. We have over 2 million Ukrainian refugees in Poland now, and obviously the needs for support and services are immense.

Now what the European Union has done, and yes, as you as you mentioned, I’m here in Brussels today for the European Humanitarian Forum. They have put together something called a temporary protection directive, which basically means that for a period of time, Ukrainians and others that were in Ukraine can seek the protection, the residency, the ability to be able to access services in the country in which they find themselves. So this kind of solidarity, which of course, for the European Union, is critical right now. They are on the front lines of this, but also other countries are establishing similar mechanisms. Canada, the United States, Brazil have all talked about this. And this will be absolutely essential for the long term. And moving from an immediate humanitarian response to something that is more dignified, where people can take care of themselves and receive less from the international community. But sustained support is absolutely fundamental.

Børge Brende: Six and a half million internally displaced people, 2 million people, only in Poland, are refugees. The solidarity and how they’re coping with that, also with your support, is just so, so touching.

Moving to Inger Ashing, the CEO of Save the Children. I know that you have operated in Ukraine since 2014 when we saw the first destabilisation, the occupation of Crimea, but also what we know from Donetsk and Luhansk. And I guess you still have colleagues in Ukraine. I wonder what they’re reporting from the ground in terms of the changing needs and the humanitarian access and what what children are faced with just now.

Inger Ashing: Thank you, Børge. Yes, we still have teams in Ukraine, in the neighbouring countries, to make sure that we are responding to this crisis that we see. And as we all know, millions of children in Ukraine are in grave danger and our teams and the partners that we work with within the country are witnessing a major protection crisis unfold.

Bombs and intense shelling have damaged more than 460 schools across the country and over 60 now lay in complete ruins. Schools should be a safe haven for children, not a place of fear, injury and death. —Inger Ashing, Chief Executive Officer, Save the Children International

Inside Ukraine they report that children have started to show signs of severe emotional distress. Some children say that they have become afraid of any noise, feel terrified at all times and struggle to breathe when they think about what is happening around them. Children are seeing their schools and hospitals being destroyed. They’re exposed to the devastating effects of explosive weapons in populated areas, and some are being separated from their families. And that’s, of course, in Ukraine. As we just heard, if they are able to to escape and flee the country, that they are separated from, from the fathers.

And we are extremely alarmed by reports that bombs and intense shelling have damaged more than 460 schools across the country and over 60 now lay in complete ruins. Schools should be a safe haven for children, not a place of fear, injury and death. Urban areas across Ukraine have been repeatedly shelled, reducing complete streets to rubble. The streets of Ukraine are being used as a battlefield. And our teams speak of there being no safe places left in the country now. And we heard that at least one in five children in Ukraine, more than 1.5 million, have been fleeing the country. And in neighbouring countries we are seeing huge number of children amongst those coming across borders. A significant number of them being under 14. We are especially concerned about children travelling alone who are extremely high risk of abuse, trafficking and exploitation.

And in light of these spiralling need, it is essential that an unimpeded humanitarian response is able to reach families at the speed and the scale required. And that is incredibly difficult right now.

Although some of our partners have managed to remain operational in Ukraine, the situation is volatile and the ongoing hostilities have severely restricted access to some conflict affected communities, leading to accumulation and exacerbation of unmet needs.

So yes, there’s a lot of things to be really concerned about, but what we also see seeing and we heard some of my colleagues talking about neighbouring countries and the generosity that we are seeing, but I’m also overwhelmed by the generosity and rapid reaction of business leaders and the public around the world, and there’s a lot of important roles that they can play. I think the task ahead is to collectively support these children – meeting the immediate needs and safety of each individual child and ensuring their long-term protection because the rules are very clear: children are not the target, and neither are hospitals or schools. We must protect the children in Ukraine.

Børge Brende: Thank you so much, Inger. And I’m just wondering what it takes for someone to bomb more than 100 schools, there’s supposed to be the safe place for children, and children’s hospitals. This is happening in Europe in the 21st century and based on this, I think we’re all, Kelly, thinking about how can we in the most effective way for governments, business and the public to support the refugees in the mid of this crisis. Of course, we are in the middle of the crisis now, but also, as you mentioned, it’s going to continue for a long time. So, how are neighbouring states planning to support this many refugees and also those yet to arrive? I think we all would like to know how we in the best way can support.

Ukraine: what companies can do

Kelly Clements: Thanks, thanks very much for the question, this is critical. Inger just said it. We have seen incredible generosity and outpouring of support. And if we can say one thing and leave one thing with you, please let this not be temporary. We will need long-term sustained support, not just for this crisis, but, as David said, for the many other refugee displacement crises around the world that continue, unfortunately, to not receive the support that it needs.

So there are about five ways that we would say that businesses can support the governments, the municipalities, organisations like ours. First and foremost, of course, resources. It’s funding. It’s money. Things that are as flexible as possible because we need to be able to move very quickly, depending upon where those pockets and access opens up inside Ukraine, but also where refugees move in the neighbouring countries, to be able to move with them and to be able to support the governments in the municipalities that are on the front lines of this crisis.

Second is in-kind. It’s everything from mattresses to beds to blankets to sanitary supplies. All of that is required. Refugees, the Ukrainians, third-country nationals, students. They are leaving the country with very, very little. As Cathy said, the roller bag, there’s not much that can fit in there. So really trying to be able to provide some immediate support in terms of that in-kind, including lift support in some in some context, but also we are setting up very quickly a multipurpose cash system so that they can then have a safe way to be able to move and seek accommodation.

The third – for companies – engage your employees. Lots of people want to help right now, and many companies are taking advantage of that opportunity to be able to channel the support in ways that assist organisations like ours to be able to deliver that relief on the ground very, very quickly.

Fourth: many companies are also doing a matching competition, which obviously raises increased resources, gets people engaged.

Fifth, the pro bono support we’ve seen from several companies in terms of adding their expertise, their legal advice, their technological answers when we need some help, particularly in trying to be able to put that cash system in place very, very quickly. We couldn’t have done it without business.

And then the final point I would make, Børge, on this is: use your voice. It’s advocacy. It’s talking about why we should care as an international community and why we need to stand together with people in need right now and for the future.

Børge Brende: Thank you, Kelly. It is really heartbreaking to see the children and Cathy we know that UNICEF is very engaged and I would also like to pose the question to you. What are the most effective ways that governments and businesses can support the children? Those in particular needs, the refugees, including educational, psycho, social and mental health needs, because we know that there are scars with these children that they will bear the rest of their lives and we really, really now need the best and most targeted way.

Catherine Russell: And I think that’s exactly right, Børge, and I would agree with Kelly, I think that the international response to the situation has been immediate, and governments have stepped up so dramatically and been very responsive, and so have local communities in the neighbouring countries.

But the private sector has stepped up rapidly as well, which has been very reassuring and greatly appreciated because these needs just continue to grow by the day.

And, as you as you say, this includes the needs for psychosocial support. Children living living through these experiences are just experiencing traumatic events every day, and that includes not just the shelling, which kids have certainly heard, or hiding in the subway stations or travelling, leaving their fathers or whatever. There’s just a lot of different situations that are very hard to judge how that impact will last on these kids.

Inside Ukraine, we’re deploying 47 mobile units to reach children, which is important and valuable. But it’s, of course, a drop in the bucket considering the needs, and we’re trying to do that wherever these children are and provide them with supports. And in neighbouring countries, as I mentioned, the Blue Dot centres are also focussed on child protection and support.

We’re also scaling up child protection hotlines for members of the general public to call when they see a child at risk. And that’s particularly saying if you see a child who is alone or gives you any worry. The local communities are being very generous, but sometimes and inevitably in those situations there are people who don’t have good intentions at heart, and we have to really be aware of that. So we’re asking people to use digital and social media to help identify situations where children may be at some risk from trafficking and other dangers.

We’re also scaling up educational support. The pandemic has really shown us how profoundly crises can impact children’s education, how important it is to try to reach them quickly. The interesting thing about Ukraine is that much of their education system is digitally available, so we’re trying to provide materials and support to prevent learning loss. Again, challenging given the circumstances. But at least if we can try to have some continuity for the students, I think that will be helpful. We’re delivering education kits and early childhood development kits in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. We’re deploying 100 mobile education and early childhood development teams to urgently support children’s access to education, and we’re encouraging governments to integrate refugee children into national education systems.

And this is complicated, as I think Inger and Kelly both mentioned, because you have situations where the children and the parents hope and believe that the families are going back soon and they don’t really want to move into a different education system. But of course, we have no idea how long these kids will be there, and it’s important to try to make sure that they have some access to the local education system. So we need to expand these services and all services because every day this war continues.

UNICEF first and foremost is appealing for funds, of course. Our appeal was for $349 million, 276 for urgent programmes inside Ukraine and 73 million for critical efforts in neighbouring countries. We’re going to need all of that and obviously to respond to this crisis in the days and as long as it takes.

But we’re also calling on the private sector. Companies, particularly those doing business in refugee hosting countries, can help refugee families coping with displacement, for example, by providing access to decent work, especially for people supporting children.

Global technology and digital media companies [that] have a footprint in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries can help us send real time information to protect at-risk Ukrainian women and children from being abused, exploited and trafficked, and that’s incredibly important.

We welcome support also from the logistics and transport industry to both transport and store critical supplies. We’ve already been working together on COVID-19 vaccine distribution so these folks know us and know our work. With so many children affected in Ukraine and all over the world, our partnership with the transport industry has never been more critical, and we’re so grateful for that.

And we’re calling on all businesses to engage with their staff, their customer base, their business community to push for a peaceful solution to this war and for more support for the children who are caught up in. So thank you so much.

Børge Brende: Well, thank you so much and you can count also on the World Economic Forum to mobilise all our business partners. We had a meeting on Friday with more than 120 CEOs that just joined on Ukraine on a couple of days’ notice. Also at our annual meeting in Davos in May, of course, the humanitarian consequences of the war will have major focus. And I’m thinking about the long-term consequences also for children. Of course, the IDPs, but also the refugees. Inger, what can we do and what do you think we will see in the coming months and years here in Europe for these children?

Inger Ashing: Thank you, Børge. So I think in all wars, children are the most vulnerable group and losing their protective and secure environments, they are exposed to a number of risks that may have long-term consequences on their development and growth lasting well into adulthood. And I think that is regardless if you’re an internally displaced person or if you have to flee your country.

And I think it’s important for us to understand that the nature of conflict has changed. Putting children in the frontline in new and terrible ways. Wars are lasting longer. They are more likely to be fought in urban areas among civilians, leading to death and life-challenging injuries and laying waste to the infrastructure needed to guarantee access to food and water, as we just heard. Attacks on schools and hospitals are up. We see all of this happening in Ukraine right now. And children are this disproportionately suffering from the consequences of these brutal trends. We see many more children facing unimaginable mental and physical trauma. We see more children going hungry, falling victim to preventable diseases, being out of school, the risk of sexual violence, being trapped on the frontline with no access to humanitarian aid.

And the longer the conflict continues, the worse the situation would be. And the harm that is done to children in armed conflict is not only often more severe than than what it is for adults. It has longer lasting implications for children themselves and for their societies.

You can say that destruction poverty that comes from war and violence creates a vicious circle. And one example just to illustrate what I’m trying to say is that the closure of schools not only leaves lifelong scars in education and employment, but it also deprives children of one of the most important protective factors. And the impact that we see in Ukraine now on children’s health, both physical and mental, is devastating.

But I want to say that children can also demonstrate extreme resilience even in the most extreme circumstances, particularly if they are getting the right support to recover. So there is a real important role for all of us to play to make sure that we support them, to be able to get to that resilience and come out of this without as many scars as if if they are not supported.

And it’s about ensuring that children are safe, that their basic needs are being met, families are preserved or reunited, that alternative care is being put in place and that children have access to community level support such as school.

Local and national NGOs will be critical and so will government and the business sector. And we know from experience in other conflict zones around the world that we have to start planning now for supporting children’s long term recovery from the crisis. And we know that we need to ensure that we give access to education, as we just heard both Kelly and Cathy talk about.

And I think what will be key now is to make sure that there is a strong commitment from the international community and business leaders to mobilise new child-focused recovery funding and prioritise investment in human capital by investment in education, healthcare protection, mental health, psychosocial support. And I think it’s key that this is this this funding is long term that is flexible and that we are putting children at the centre and at the core of the response is to support Ukraine.

Børge Brende: Well, thank you, Inger, for that incredibly important reminder. We can’t only focus on the short term humanitarian catastrophe, we know that we will need to, medium-term, long-term follow up these children.

I would like to go back to you, David Beasley. We know that the war in Ukraine is putting serious strain on the global food system, and this is having impact all over the world. And we know that this food system already was failing nearly 800 million people who were living in hunger globally before this crisis. It has become more urgent than ever to transition food systems so that they are more resilient and also more inclusive. Ukraine and Russia, we know, as I already mentioned, jointly supply nearly 30% of wheat worldwide. So I’m wondering, what can the public and private sectors do to prepare for the next harvest and to strengthen the food system over the longer term so we don’t move to a situation where those that had food shortage end up in famine and those that had no problem before are ending up in a food situation that is serious. So what can we do?

David Beasley: Well, I talked with the G7 secretaries, ministers of agriculture on Friday and said the question is, do you have enough time right now to offset what could be a substantial reduction in the availability of grains, wheat, barley, oats etc. around the world because of what’s happening in Ukraine? And this is one of the reasons we need to get the farmers in Ukraine back into the field so they can plant and harvest over the next few months. Otherwise, can the G7 countries and all other nations around the world make up for that supply that needs to be offset from the literally hundreds of millions of metric tonnes that will not be available. Because, as I said earlier, it’s not going to be a pricing problem in the fall or a year from now, it’s going to be an availability problem and that has extraordinary consequences.

The other thing is while you’re focussing on Ukraine you cannot neglect the Middle East and, let’s say, for example, from the Red Sea to the Atlantic, the Sahel, Ethiopia, Sudan, South Sudan, because if you do, you could have millions upon millions of refugees heading your way, as we saw in Syria. You cannot neglect this region of the world just for Ukraine, we’ve got to deal with both and all of this at the same time, because right now, because of lack of money right before Ukraine, we were already cutting rations. Just say, for example, in Yemen for 8 million people down to 50% and now down to zero percent in the next week. If we don’t receive monies. The same thing in the Sahel – we’ve already cut in Niger and Chad and Ethiopia, et cetera, down to 50% rations. How would you like to tell your child, I’m sorry, you only going to get at best half the food that you need.

So you’re running into these issues all over the world. And so we can’t neglect those other areas.

An area that’s really critical, though, is export bans. The private sector and the government’s got to minimise export bans, or private sector has got to be very careful not to get too speculative in a constrained market. Transparency’s going to be critical so we stabilise the market because we’re not just dealing with the 125 million people that we may be feeding on on any given day or month. But we’re dealing with 7.8 billion people on Earth that that need and rely on these supply chain systems.

One last thing, Børge, and this is extremely important, because the long-term answer in these fragile places not just giving food. I mean, I think all of us would like to put ourselves out of business where we’re no longer needed. And this is where the private sector has got to be engaged in countries that may not be at war right now. Yeah, we need your money right now in the short term, perfect storm. But on the long term, we need your engagement in reducing dependency upon government programmes that would just hand out food versus creating resilient sustainability in ways that, when shocks do happen, people can take care of themselves. And we’ve got these solutions, they do need to be funded. But I’ve seen an incredible shift in the United Nations in the past few years that, in my opinion, shun the private sector. But you see, I think it’s a great awakening in the United Nations – we’ll never solve hunger, we’ll never solve poverty unless the private sector is front and centre working alongside. So thank you.

Børge Brende: No. Thank you, David, for that important perspective. One thing is to bring food in acute crisis, humanitarian crisis, but you shouldn’t kill the local markets at the same time. Of course, it’s different when there is a war zone compared to a natural disaster, but these are very important reminders.

Cathy and Kelly. as David just underlined, the crisis in Ukraine is taking place as part of a global crisis. We know that at least 82 million people around the world have been forced to flee their homes – 82 million people, and amongst them are nearly 26 million refugees and many of them children. Maybe you could share with our audience what impact this crisis in Ukraine has on Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, South Sudan, Ethiopia and other conflicts around the world, how can we continue to support in Ukraine without letting people in, for example, Yemen or South Sudan pay a price for this?

Inger Ashing: Well, Børge, we just have to. We have to not take our eye off of those other crises. You know, for 2022, the Global Humanitarian Overview asked for a record $41 billion dollars for 274 million people. If you combine that with the requirements now that we’re seeing in light of the Ukraine situation, the needs, as all of us have said, are going through the roof, and the requirements that we have to continue to meet those needs are also increasing.

Last year, we were only half-supported as an organisation, as the UN refugee agency. Already this year, we are tremendously worried that resources not be deviated or diverted to Ukraine. This needs to be additional. We need to continue to support Venezuelans, South Sudanese, Sudanese, Yemeni, Somali refugees, and all. In pockets around the world global humanitarian need is acute and we cannot take our eye off of those needs at the same time.

Børge Brende: Cathy?

Catherine Russell: You know, I think it’s certainly challenging that the world’s attention is now on Ukraine, and that’s that makes sense, right? It’s a terrible situation there and we can see every night on the news what’s happening. But, as Kelly said, the problems continue in other places. And I think, you know, someone gave me a statistic that last year in Syria, nearly 900 children were killed or injured, and that’s when you stop and think about it, it’s a devastating number. I was in Afghanistan a couple of weeks ago and I was shocked at the at the humanitarian crisis that is happening there where so many children, I mean, we’re worried that a million children are at risk of acute severe malnutrition. And you know, I’ve seen a lot of things in my career, but I visited a hospital where babies were suffering from that problem. And it was devastating even for me to see. And I, as I said, I’ve seen many situations like that before, but it is terrible there. And it’s a situation where you know, you drive down the road and you see carts of vegetables and fruit on the side of the road. They did have a drought last year, so the food is more limited. But there is some food in the country, but there’s no money in the country because of this banking challenge.

So the international community has got to still be able to focus on other problems at the same time, because if we don’t, you know, people, children in particular will will suffer and are suffering in these places.

I did a call the other day with with people from Yemen. Again, people are suffering, children are suffering from acute malnutrition. That’s a that’s a very horrible way. I mean, I don’t know about you, but if I’m hungry, if I miss lunch, I sort of notice it, right? And these people are suffering in such a devastating way. These little children, they go to school, they don’t have meals. How are they supposed to get through the day? And it’s really a horrifying situation. And as a world, we can’t let that happen. We’ve got to be able to do more than one thing at a time, not detracting at all from the crisis in Ukraine because it is a serious problem. But there are children suffering in many other parts of the world, and we’ve got to be able to focus on that as well and do something about it. Because we have the capacity to do it. And I always say at UNICEF, we know what to do. We know how to address these problems. We just need the resources to do it.

Børge Brende: Thank you so much, Kathy. Adrian, what strong messages from these humanitarians?

Adrian Monck: Incredible testimony, I think, from everyone across the humanitarian leadership sector. And I think from David as well and from Inger and some of the colleagues that you brought on, a really important message for CEOs listening – that their businesses really do need to have plans to tackle this crisis, and that business has a really important role to play in making sure that we can both meet the needs of the people who are suffering and also that we can help them to integrate and rebuild their lives and actually manage through this horrible crisis that we’ve seen in Europe in the last few weeks.

But really, yes, it’s been a profound and fascinating insight into the challenges that we face and also into the solutions that present themselves, particularly some of those points. And I think anyone who’s watching from any Forum partner company can get in touch with their engagement manager and really understand how they can help, what they can do, and what their company needs to do to have a plan to tackle this crisis. Back to you, Børge.

Børge Brende: Well, thank you so much Adrian. And thank you to all of you for joining. Thank you for the incredible work you’re doing. Also, send our warmest thoughts to all the brave humanitarians out there and also thinking about all those that are suffering under war or natural disasters. But we also have to not get paralysed. We have to roll up our sleeves and really now support everyone in need and get back on track so we can meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. We cannot give up on this because it is possible to fight poverty. It is possible to eradicate all extreme poverty by 2030. But it will take a lot and these crises are, unfortunately, historic. So thank you very much for joining us and all the best from Geneva.

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