URCS History


The Ukrainian Red Cross is the largest humanitarian organization in Ukraine that has been focusing on protecting people’s lives, health, and dignity for over a century. 24 regional and over 200 district organizations with the help of over 8,000 volunteers:

– assist the authorities in responding to various emergencies;
– provide psychosocial and humanitarian support to vulnerable population groups;
– teach first aid;
-spread awareness about mine danger, common diseases and a healthy lifestyle;
– provide home care for lonely seniors;
– disseminate knowledge of international humanitarian law;
– provide primary medical care in remote settlements;
– help those who need support the most.

The International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, a movement of relief, humanity, support, and rescue, was founded on 17 February 1863, at the initiative of Swiss businessman and public figure Jean Henri Dunant.


In 1859, Henri Dunant witnessed the aftermath of the Battle of Solferino, the largest battle of the Second Italian War of Independence. Tens of thousands of wounded with traumas and bleeding were left on the battlefield and required medical attention. But few people were willing and able to help. Shocked by the situation, Henri Dunant rallied people to help and rescue the wounded. Together, they set up makeshift hospitals. For the first time in history, all injured received treatment, no matter which side of the conflict they belonged to, because the most important was saving people’s lives. Thousands received first aid, food, comfort, support and care. Thanks to the coordinated assistance, countless lives were saved.

These events inspired Henri Dunant to create a neutral organization that would help everyone, regardless of their origin, race, political or religious beliefs. This way, the first-ever impartial and the world’s largest humanitarian movement – the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement –  was born.

After the founding of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement in 1863, Red Cross branches gradually began to appear in European countries and subsequently around the world. The first Red Cross branches in Ukraine emerged in 1867 in Simferopol and Kamianets-Podilskyi. They operated under the authority of the Austro-Hungarian and Russian Empires. The Red Cross branches provided humanitarian aid to victims of famine and natural disasters, fought epidemics of plague, typhus, smallpox, and other dangerous diseases, established free medical and rehabilitation facilities, and educated nurses who provided medical care to the wounded and all those in need. 

An independent national society of the Ukrainian Red Cross would only appear some 50 years later.

During the First World War, Red Cross branches helped the injured in major battles. Red Cross medical units and nurses were working along the front line; they performed first aid on the spot and organized the transportation of the wounded with Red Cross evacuation trains and steamers. At the same time, hospitals and outpatient clinics actively opened throughout the country to help even more injured. Millions of refugees fleeing the war received humanitarian aid from the Red Cross branches. Food stations were set up, and temporary housing was built to support them further, helping those who lost their homes. The victims were provided with clothing, rations, and other essentials.

At the end of 1917, when Ukraine’s separation and independence commenced, an idea emerged to establish a Ukrainian national Red Cross Society. Thus, on April 18, 1918, the Ukrainian Red Cross Society was established in Kyiv, and for over 105 years, it has provided humanitarian aid to vulnerable groups of the population and responded to various emergencies and challenges within the country. The first leaders of the Ukrainian Red Cross were Yevhen Lukasevych, Borys Matyushenko, and Vasyl Nalyvaiko. 

The Ukrainian Red Cross faced significant challenges during the first years of its existence – the consequences of the war had caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Volunteers of the Ukrainian Red Cross built hospitals and food stations. They used sanitary trains to travel to remote settlements to deliver food, drinking water, and medicines to all those in need. At the same time, they were fighting epidemics of various diseases by informing people about the ways of transmission and prevention of infections and vaccinating against typhus and other infectious diseases in the laboratories of the Ukrainian Red Cross. Regular training was conducted for Ukrainian Red Cross sanitary units that provided medical care to the wounded.

In 1923, the Ukrainian Red Cross became part of the Union of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies of the USSR. First and foremost, the Ukrainian Red Cross had to tackle the consequences of the long war and ensure humanitarian support to the affected population. Famine and dangerous disease epidemics were rampant in the country. In response, the Ukrainian Red Cross set up thousands of soup kitchens and distributed food and other humanitarian aid. It continued to educate the population about preventing dangerous diseases while hundreds of Ukrainian Red Cross medical facilities provided free medical care.  

Over time, the scope of activities grew as new medical and rehabilitation facilities, dispensaries, baths, pharmacies, maternity hospitals, nurseries, and health and recreation centers were established throughout the country. 

To provide adequate medical care, sanitary units and nurses were constantly trained, and the Ukrainian Red Cross air ambulances and sanatorium ships were involved.

With the outbreak of World War II, more than 100,000 nurses, sanitary instructors, and medical squads of the Ukrainian Red Cross worked on the front lines, providing medical care and saving the lives of the wounded. As the medical institutions required blood supplies to help the injured, massive popularization of blood donation was initiated. Sanitary and epidemiological units were also created to conduct medical examinations and hygiene monitoring of settlements affected by the hostilities.

After the end of World War II, the main task of the Ukrainian Red Cross was to help rebuild the country and address the sanitary consequences of the war. Ukrainian Red Cross branches began to restore medical facilities across the country and build canteens to combat hunger. During this time, a sanitary service was created to monitor the hygienic conditions and level of contamination of households in communities. The Ukrainian Red Cross trained volunteers who provided medical assistance, emotional support, and care for sick people in hospitals or at home. This laid the ground for the creation of the Ukrainian Red Cross patronage service in 1961, which provided medical and social care to the most vulnerable in Ukraine over the next 50 years.

In the 1970s and 1980s, the Ukrainian Red Cross continued to support the health care system and spread information about healthy lifestyles, promote volunteering and blood donation, teach first aid, and deliver effective humanitarian aid to those who needed it most. But the next challenge for the Ukrainian Red Cross, and for Ukraine as a whole, was the Chornobyl disaster of 1986.

Since the first hours of the Chornobyl disaster, Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers were involved in the evacuation of people from the areas of radioactive contamination. They helped evacuees with housing and provided food and essential medicines, first aid, and psychological support. Helping to tackle the consequences of the Chornobyl disaster became one of the core tasks of the Ukrainian Red Cross. A comprehensive Chornobyl program was later established, which went on to become the largest and most effective support program in the world: mobile diagnostic teams surveyed the affected population and conducted outreach in the affected areas.

With the proclamation of Ukraine’s independence, the Ukrainian Red Cross also gained its autonomy, and by a decree of the President of Ukraine, it was recognized as the sole national Red Cross society in Ukraine. 

The Ukrainian Red Cross continued its comprehensive humanitarian support to the now-independent country. Volunteers across the country taught people first aid, informed them about dangerous diseases like HIV and tuberculosis, looked after vulnerable people, promoted blood donation, and disseminated knowledge of international humanitarian law. At this time, the Ukrainian Red Cross search service was launched to help restore family links lost due to natural disasters, wars, and other emergencies.

The next challenge was the Revolution of Dignity in 2013. The Ukrainian Red Cross emergency response teams were created to provide first aid to the victims, evacuate, and give first psychological aid to a large number of people at Euromaidan. Today, these teams continue to assist the state by responding to various emergencies in the country and providing urgent relief to victims along with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine.  

After the annexation of Crimea in 2014 and the outbreak of hostilities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts, the Ukrainian Red Cross focused its activities on humanitarian relief for the large number of internally displaced persons. People were supplied with food kits, hygiene sets, and other essentials. Psychosocial support activities, voucher assistance, and support in restoring households and lost family ties were also in place. Residents of the frontline communities in Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts were informed about mine risks and the rules for dealing with explosive devices. Also, at this time, mobile health units of the Ukrainian Red Cross were launched to provide primary medical care in areas with limited access to medicine.

The Ukrainian Red Cross developed and improved its expertise and gradually moved from Soviet methodology to the most modern international humanitarian aid practices. In 2016, the Ukrainian Red Cross launched a major reformation of its activities and strengthened its sustainable development. It has become a strong national Red Cross society that implements a large variety of programs and projects, and provides integrated and effective humanitarian assistance. The Ukrainian Red Cross branches supported the most vulnerable people across the country: distributed food and hygiene kits, and clothing; offered first aid training and psychosocial support; assisted the state in dealing with different emergencies; disseminated knowledge of international humanitarian law; promoted blood donation; developed the volunteer movement in Ukraine, and implemented humanitarian education. With each step, the humanitarian activities of the Ukrainian Red Cross became more comprehensive and effective.

The next challenge in modern Ukrainian history was the COVID-19 pandemic. The whole world faced an unknown disease that affected every aspect of people’s lives. The Ukrainian Red Cross, being the largest humanitarian organization in Ukraine, together with the state authorities, took to tackling the spread of COVID-19 in Ukraine. The Ukrainian Red Cross provided the necessary equipment to medical institutions, supplied medical personnel with protective equipment (antiseptics, masks), and ran awareness campaigns about blood donation, the specifics of coronavirus infection and prevention of its spread, and later, about vaccination against COVID-19. The distribution of humanitarian aid and other activities of the Ukrainian Red Cross were promptly adapted to quarantine restrictions so that the most vulnerable segments of the population could continue to receive all the necessary assistance, support and care – especially those in social isolation.

February 24, 2022, changed everyone’s life. To help the affected people, the Ukrainian Red Cross mobilized all its resources and efforts. Employees and volunteers delivered humanitarian aid virtually around the clock; assisted in evacuating and transporting people with limited mobility from the hotspots; set up temporary accommodation; kept watch at railway stations and border crossing points; taught first aid and mine awareness; provided psychosocial support and first aid.

Due to the large-scale destruction and displacement of a significant number of people, Ukrainian society has faced many social and humanitarian challenges. To provide comprehensive and effective support to Ukrainians, the Ukrainian Red Cross has scaled up all its activities and launched new projects. Thousands of volunteers and staff have helped and continue to help in the restoration and reconstruction of damaged infrastructure, provide communities with power generators and modular boilers, improve living conditions in temporary accommodation places for IDPs and build modular towns for them; implement rehabilitation programs; support medical institutions; respond to different emergencies, working at the site and assisting rescuers and victims; they teach first aid and care about people’s psychological state; provide humanitarian aid. Besides, the mobile health units of the Ukrainian Red Cross provide primary medical care in the remotest settlements of different regions, at the same time, the social assistants give support and care to lonely seniors across the country.

On June 6, 2023, the Kakhovka hydroelectric power plant was destroyed. Thousands of people were in a water trap, and kilometers of land flooded, destroying households and dwellings. From the first hours of the disaster, Ukrainian Red Cross volunteers, together with the State Emergency Service of Ukraine, started evacuating people from the affected areas and transporting persons with limited mobility to safer places. Victims were given food and drinking water, while the injured received first aid and psychological assistance. Mobile health units of the Ukrainian Red Cross carried out medical consultations and screenings in hard-to-reach communities. 

Currently, the Ukrainian Red Cross is helping to restore damaged households, providing potable water and means for water purification, providing comprehensive humanitarian support, and informing about the most common infectious diseases and mine risks, which have escalated due to massive flooding. Besides, the Ukrainian Red Cross provides water tanks and water treatment plants to areas that lost access to water sources.

The war is on, and the Ukrainian Red Cross continues to provide comprehensive and effective humanitarian assistance to all those in need. It takes care of the most vulnerable, helps to rebuild Ukraine, and is ready to respond to any emergency to save lives. 

We are close!



The President of Ukraine issued a Decree on the Ukrainian Red Cross Society, which recognizes it as the only national Red Cross Society in Ukraine authorized to assist public authorities in their humanitarian activities.


The Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine established the Ukrainian Red Cross search service, whose core task was to restore family ties lost during World War II, other armed conflicts, natural disasters, emergencies, and migration.