March 7, 2022

Ukraine: Youth and women disproportionately affected

Ukrainian refugees at the Polish border © 2022, Tom Nicholson

SPARK stands ready to support young people, entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and students affected by the conflict. 

Russia invaded Ukraine over ten days ago and since then more than one million people have fled to neighboring countries, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Many more thousands have been displaced from their homes within the country. This number could grow to between 4 and 5 million people unless a quick end to the invasion is found.

As with most violent conflict, those disproportionately affected are likely to be women, children and youth. The long-term impact of conflict on youth can be devastating, resulting in years of missed opportunities to study, work and grow companies and build a career. 

SPARK was founded during the Bosnian War in 1994 and continues to support young people in Western Europe, especially refugees. Ukraine, with its vibrant civil society, booming tech scene and strong agricultural industry will also suffer economically for years to come. We are heartbroken to see how war is once again causing untold suffering to innocent civilians, as well as having devastating consequences for already struggling populations around the world.

Lebanon, for example – a country already facing an horrific economic crisis – relies on Ukraine for 60% of its wheat provisions. The Lebanese government recently announced that there are only enough grain reserves to last a month, as the devastating explosion in Beirut’s port in 2020 destroyed the country’s main grain silo. In addition, the global price rise in oil and gas since the Russian invasion of Ukraine will disproportionately affect the poorest people around the world.

Since 2021, we have been in touch with local organisations in Ukraine to develop youth entrepreneurship programming. Now, these organisations continue to inform us about the needs of people. We stand ready to support young people, entrepreneurs, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and students affected by the conflict. 

In the long-term, we are developing relevant, sustainable support for Ukrainian youth to rebuild their lives. If you or your organisation would like to join these efforts to support young students and entrepreneurs fleeing and displaced within the country, please contact us.

In the immediate term, we encourage our supporters to donate to organisations that are actively responding to the urgent humanitarian needs of Ukrainians, such as the UNHCR, who are providing humanitarian relief for all affected populations in Ukraine and countries in the region and the International Rescue Committee, who are operating in Poland providing humanitarian aid.