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#Football4Ukraine: Soccer stars join WFP and UNHCR to raise funds for refugees in video appeal

‘It’s a critical moment for anyone who can actually help and donate’
, WFP Staff
WFP and UNHCR work with the Government of Moldova to assist refugees from Ukraine in Palanca
WFP and UNHCR work with the Government of Moldova to assist refugees from Ukraine in Palanca. Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo 

Six international football stars – including the first Syrian refugee to play in the German Bundesliga – are joining forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to raise funds for people fleeing conflict in Ukraine

UNHCR and WFP’s global #football4ukraine appeal comes at a time when almost a quarter of Ukraine’s population – more than 10 million people have been forced from their homes. 

Stills from #Football4Ukraine video featuring Mahmoud Dahoud and Lucy Bronze

Click here to watch video

According to the UN, 3.9 million people have fled the country since the start of the conflict, making this the fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II. Meanwhile, 6.5 million people have been displaced within Ukraine’s borders, and at least 13 million are estimated to either be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave amid heightened security risks, destroyed bridges and roads, and uncertainty about where to head and places to stay. 

Food distribution in Moldova
A Government of Moldova food distribution supported by UN agencies in cooperation with local NGOs in Palanca. Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo

“I think it’s very important at this time in the world’s history that we all get together and show this solidarity,” said WFP spokesperson Abeer Etefa. “It’s a critical moment for anyone who can actually help and donate. With global food prices increasing as a consequence of the Ukraine crisis, with the massive humanitarian – and especially food – needs in countries such as Afghanistan, Yemen and South Sudan, we need the help of everyone, no matter how small the contribution is, even if it’s simply helping to build awareness.”

The video appeal includes players from across the UK’s Premier League, the Bundesliga and the French Division 1 Féminine, accompanied by music from WFP Goodwill Ambassador The Weeknd

The three players with a refugee background are Bayern Munich’s Alphonso Davies, a UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador; Everton goalkeeper Asmir Begovic, who was forced to flee his home in Bosnia and Herzegovina; and Mahmoud Dahoud of Borussia Dortmund – the first Syrian refugee to play in the Bundesliga.

WFP and UNHCR personnel assist refugees from Ethiopia in the Um Rakuba camp on Sudan. Photo: WFP/Woojung Kim

They are joined by Manchester City and FIFA Women’s Player 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.

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, through donating to the appeal.   


“I'm heartbroken by this situation,” said Lucy Bronze. “Millions of people including many children have been forced to flee their homes in Ukraine with no idea of what the future holds or when they will be able to return home.

“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.”

Children football southern madagascar
A football match at breaktime at a school supported by WFP in Ifotake, in southern Madagascar's Androy
province. Photo: WFP Sitraka Niaina Raharinaivo

WFP’s Abeer Etefa said: “The popularity of the players helps us to engage with audiences we might not otherwise reach,” said Etefa – the timing is critical – not just for Ukraine but across the world’s humanitarian emergencies. “If you look at Yemen, we barely have a quarter of the resources that we need to keep people alive. The operation for Ukraine — we don't have the funding that we need.”

Two women in Poland
Two Ukrainian women pose for a photograph at Ukraine's border with Poland. Photo: WFP/Marco Frattini

The joint appeal brings together UNHCR’s expertise in protecting families forced to flee and WFP’s experience in saving lives in conflict zones. To ensure donations have the greatest impact for people affected by the emergency in Ukraine, they will be allocated to the two organizations to provide food, shelter, psychosocial support, financial assistance and other life-saving aid.  

A Ukrainian child refugee in Moldova
Mealtime at a school serving as a reception centre for Ukrainian refugees in Moldova. Photo: WFP/Giulio d'Adamo

Within Ukraine, UNHCR is working to provide emergency shelter, cash assistance and other critical protection services for those who have fled their homes. It 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.

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 neighbouring countries. WFP teams are also setting up operations and hubs in several locations in the neighbouring countries to facilitate delivery of humanitarian assistance into Ukraine.   

“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,” said WFP Executive Director David Beasley. “This war is a catastrophe for the world.” 

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