Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has sparked the biggest war in Europe since WWII. It has cost thousands of lives, caused an estimated 7,891,977 people to flee Ukraine (as of 29 November), and intensified a global food crisis. The estimated cost of recovery in the region is US $750 billion — on top of the US $82 billion in humanitarian, financial, and military support that countries have already committed.
This tracker monitors donor countries’ support to Ukraine by estimating in-donor refugee costs and tracking pledges made by donors to support Ukraine. Our analysis highlights the scale of official development assistance (ODA) needed to respond to the crisis in Ukraine. Huge ODA increases are necessary to ensure the global community can provide adequate support to Ukraine, while also continuing to support development priorities in the rest of the world.
Our analysis shows that global in-donor refugee costs alone could exceed an estimated US$49.7 billion in 2022, which would be 28.4% of total ODA spent in 2021. We update this analysis regularly, as new data is available.
Global aid budgets must increase to meet enormous needs
Assistance for Ukraine is crucial. Although many expected the conflict to last only weeks, fighting has continued since February 2022 with no end in sight. As the war rages on, Ukrainian refugees need safe haven in other countries, which requires billions of dollars in support from those countries (see more on “in-donor refugee costs” below). To meet their basic needs, Ukrainians unable to leave the country need life-saving assistance in the form of humanitarian support. The Ukrainian government requires additional economic assistance to protect its people and keep the country going throughout the war.
Ukraine is eligible for ODA. While military support and loan guarantees do not count as ODA and are usually financed from outside of donor governments’ development budgets, much of the humanitarian and financial support given to Ukraine this year and in the future will be drawn from donors’ ODA. Donors can also count costs associated with refugees they host within their own countries as ODA.
ODA support for Ukraine will put unprecedented pressure on already stretched ODA budgets, which have barely risen in recent years, despite the increasing costs of COVID-19, climate change, and a food security crisis. Unless countries increase their aid budgets, resources needed to address other crises may be redirected to address this crisis.
Our analysis shows that global in-donor refugee costs alone could exceed an estimated US$49.7 billion in 2022, which would be 28.4% of total ODA spent in 2021. Other humanitarian and financial support committed to Ukraine will drive up totals further. The world will not be able to meet the extraordinary needs from these compounding crises without increasing aid budgets significantly.
Estimating refugee costs
Donors can count assistance provided to refugees in their own country for the first year after their arrival (known as “in-donor refugee costs”) as ODA.
At the height of the conflict in Syria in 2016, about 1.3 million Syrian refugees were in Europe, causing in-donor refugee costs to double to $16 billion, representing 11% of total ODA. So far in 2022, there are more than 7,891,977 Ukrainian refugees in Europe, and that number could increase before the end of the year. Based on the number of refugees recorded in each donor country, and their historical average costs for hosting refugees, our analysis estimates that total refugee costs – including other humanitarian crises – could total US$49.7 billion in 2022.
The burden across countries is not equal. Many refugees fleeing Ukraine are in the neighboring countries of Poland (1,521,085 refugees), Moldova (96,913 refugees), Romania (94,526 refugees), and Slovakia (102,476 refugees), or in countries such as Germany (1,021,667 refugees) and the Czech Republic (464,910 refugees), according to the latest UNHCR data. Countries like Germany with larger aid budgets could see in-donor refugee costs in 2022 equivalent to over 50% of their previous 2021 ODA budget level. The Czech Republic, Poland, and Slovakia may see in-donor refugee costs alone in 2022 exceed their total 2021 ODA disbursements.
Tracking donor pledges to Ukraine
Donor governments have acted swiftly, pledging billions of dollars in vital aid to Ukraine. In 2020, Ukraine received $1.8 billion in total ODA from Development Assistance Committee (DAC) donors. In 2022, Ukraine will receive many times that figure. However, aid budgets are constrained in the current economic climate. These constraints, plus the increased financial assistance to Ukraine and increased in-donor refugee costs, mean that donor countries will need to come up with billions more in aid to support the crisis. Otherwise, they risk diverting ODA from other crucial life-saving programs and countries in need.
To account for how much ODA is being committed to Ukraine, we track new bilateral pledges by donors in the table below (excluding military aid, loan guarantees, and other forms of support that do not qualify as ODA). Because of inconsistent reporting, and lack of transparency or detail in many pledged commitments, it can be difficult to discern likely ODA levels. While attempts are made at verification, the figures below represent our best estimate and are subject to revision. Feedback on these figures is welcome.
This analysis uses data from the OECD DAC databases, the UNHCR Refugee Statistics Data Portal, UNHCR’s Operational Data Portal for Ukrainian Refugees, and data collected from government sources and press releases.
To estimate 2022 in-donor refugee costs for Ukrainian refugees, we multiply estimated per-refugee costs for donor countries by the number of recorded refugees in each country. For each donor, we estimate per-refugee costs using official asylum applications and total reported in-donor refugee costs for the 2018-2021 period. We assume that most of the costs will be reported this year, but some of the increase could be reported in 2023.
For more information on our methodology, including scripts to reproduce the analysis, please visit this project’s GitHub repository.