KYIV: With the number of refugees fleeing Ukraine rapidly approaching four million, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) and the World Food Programme (WFP) on Wednesday launched a new emergency appeal, with an assist from some top football players who know firsthand what it’s like to flee for your life from a warzone.
The Football for Ukraine Emergency Appeal, #football4Ukraine, is led by the two UN agencies, together with six leading footballers – three of whom are former refugees – aiming to raise funds to help those on the run, inside and outside wartorn Ukraine.
Football stars and Goodwill Ambassadors
The video-appeal includes players from across the English Premier League, Germany’s top division, the Bundesliga, and from the highest division of women’s football in France, Division 1 Féminine, accompanied by music from WFP’s Goodwill Ambassador, the Weeknd.
The three players with a refugee background are UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador and FC Bayern Munich sensation, Alphonso Davies, Mahmoud Dahoud (Borussia Dortmund) – the first Syrian refugee to play in the Bundesliga – and Everton FC goalkeeper, Asmir Begovic, who was forced to flee his home in Bosnia and Herzegovina.
They are joined by Manchester City right-back and FIFA Women’s Player of 2020, Lucy Bronze; Olympique Lyonnais’ Ada Hegerberg, the first woman recipient of the Ballon d’Or; and Manchester United’s Juan Mata, a World Cup winner with Spain.
“It is very sad to see millions of people displaced from around the world due to war. The need for support is growing by the day. This is why this appeal is important, to get urgent aid where it is needed, for everyone”, said Alphonso Davies, who was the first football player to take UNHCR’s Ambassadorial role.
The joint appeal comes at a time when almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population – more than 10 million people – have been forced from their homes. According to UNHCR, some 3.9 million refugees have been forced to flee the country, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis since the Second World War.
Following recent data, an additional 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine’s borders, and at least 13 million are estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information on where to find safety and accommodation.
‘Heartbroken’ for Ukraine
Speaking of the millions of people including many children who have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine, with no idea of what the future holds, Lucy Bronze said she was “heartbroken by the situation”.
“It’s even more shocking to think that this is on top of the more than 84 million people already displaced around the world. I hope our appeal for people displaced in Ukraine will deliver the support they need,” she added.
The joint appeal brings together UNHCR’s expertise in protecting families forced to flee and WFP’s experience in saving lives in conflict zones.
We are inspired by the response we’ve seen from football fans all over the world. – UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi
The two organizations will ensure donations have the greatest impact for people affected by the emergency in Ukraine, allocating resources raised to provide food, shelter, psychosocial support, financial assistance, and other life-saving aid.
On the ground
In Ukraine, UNHCR is working to provide emergency, shelter and cash assistance and critical protection services for those who have fled their homes.
The agency is also helping coordinate the refugee response across the region, providing critical humanitarian and protection assistance, and supporting authorities to increase capacities to receive and host new arrivals.
“We are inspired by the response we’ve seen from football fans all over the world, who are showing their support for people affected by the conflict in Ukraine”, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
“Our message to everyone, is to remember that no-one chooses to become a refugee. Refugees – from Ukraine and beyond – are placed in the most heart-breaking of circumstances, forced to flee for their lives. Each of us can do our bit and unite behind the campaign, to extend our support”.
Millions of people in Ukraine are living their worst nightmare. – WFP Executive Director David Beasley
WFP is building a massive operation to provide food for civilians trapped in major cities and assist others impacted by the conflict who have fled to neighboring countries.
The UN emergency food agency’s teams are also setting up operations and hubs in several locations in the neighboring countries to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance into Ukraine.
“There cannot be a harvest where it’s raining bombs”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.
“Millions of people in Ukraine are living their worst nightmare and, unless the war stops now, the breadbasket of Europe will be unable to feed itself. With each day of fighting, hunger is tightening its grip not only in Ukraine but also in countries far away from its borders, who rely on Ukrainian wheat and grain to keep their poorest citizens alive. This war is a catastrophe for the world”, Mr. Beasley added.
The players, are calling on fans – wherever they are and whatever club they support – to stand together as one team and support people driven from their homes by the war in Ukraine by donating to the appeal here.
In a year of unprecedented humanitarian needs, the crisis in Ukraine is a catastrophe compounding what is already a catastrophic year for the poorest and most vulnerable around the world.
While UNHCR and WFP scale up to respond to the growing needs of the Ukraine crisis, they continue to deliver in other critical situations such as in Afghanistan, Syria, South Sudan, Yemen, and other humanitarian crises around the world, often far away from the spotlight.