Romania’s Isaccea border crossing is braced for a second wave of refugees as the conflict intensifies in southern Ukraine, joining an estimated five million people who have already fled into neighbouring countries in the past two months.
The number of refugees crossing the Isaccea border to flee violence and food shortages in Mykolaiv, Mariupol and Kherson has risen to more than 2,000 a day. The border lies in the middle of the Danube with a ferry boat working 24 hours a day to bring refugees to safety in Romania.
On the Romanian side, Save the Children and other aid agencies are greeting refugees with emergency support, food and water. Mothers travelling with young children are offered a safe space to sit and feed their children, rest, or access medical support. Volunteers are working around the clock to ensure that all refugees are offered support and safety.
Anna* and her family were living in Kherson when violence erupted in nearby Mykolaiv.
She said: “We came here from the city of Kherson, where there are Russian soldiers and tanks everywhere. We left because of the lack of safety, plus no food or medical supplies are allowed in. There is an absolute shortage of food and medicine.”
Over two weeks ago Anna* packed up her car with her young daughters, aged eight and one. The journey took 14 hours, and the family had a car accident in which Anna’s* eldest daughter Ivanna* was thrown from the car and sustained injuries that required two weeks of hospital treatment.
As soon as Ivanna*, 8, became well enough the family crossed the border by foot. Anna* and her children rested at Save the Children’s mother and baby area where the family received water, baby food, nappies, and essential supplies for their next journey.
She continues: “We left by car to travel to Odesa, but after passing Odesa we got into a car accident. We had to stay for some time in a nearby town so my daughter could change her wound dressings and bandages. Now we’ve reached Romania we want to stay here for some time, at least a few weeks.”
More than two-thirds of Ukraine’s 7.5 million children have now been forced from their homes by the war, with about two million fleeing to neighbouring countries and 2.8 million displaced internally.
Gabriela Alexandrescu, CEO of Save the Children Romania, said:
“Families crossing the Isaccea border are scared and hungry. Some of them have been travelling for weeks. Many are crossing with no idea where they are going to sleep that evening. Children crossing on foot are exhausted, and desperately in need of food, medical supplies, and water. The number of refugees crossing the Isaccea border is currently over 2,000 a day. As the conflict intensifies in southern Ukraine this could increase dramatically as more families are forced to risk their lives in search of safety.”
Save the Children is encouraged by the response of neighbouring countries opening their borders to children fleeing horrific violence in Ukraine. These children need legal protection, access to education and health care, and specialist emergency support. This is particularly the case for children who are unaccompanied or separated.
More than 700,000 Ukrainian nationals have now crossed the Romanian border. Save the Children has supported over 30,000 people since 24 February.
*Name changed to protect identity