Rockets have been “raining down” on Ukraine’s cities and hundreds of people have been killed or injured since the Russian military offensive began. The number of people fleeing the Russian onslaught in Ukraine surpassed 874,000 as of Wednesday morning New York time, data from the UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, has revealed.
As the conflict intensifies, families have been escaping Ukraine any way they can. Some have been walking long distances in freezing temperatures, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reported. Families on the move need basic necessities such as shelter, food and water, while children traumatized by the violence they have witnessed also require psychosocial care, UNICEF said.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said: “Families with small children are hunkered down in basements and subway stations or running for their lives to the terrifying sound of explosions and wailing sirens. Casualty numbers are rising fast. “
Others have found shelter in Hungary, Moldova, Romania, Slovakia and beyond. Nearly 43,000 have also moved to the Russian Federation.
The UN supports the rising tide of refugees
On 1 March, the United Nations and humanitarian partners launched coordinated emergency appeals for a combined US$1.7 billion to urgently deliver humanitarian support to people in Ukraine and refugees in neighbouring countries.
Furthermore, UN agencies are working around the clock to assess humanitarian needs and scale up aid to the displaced Ukrainians flooding across western borders, half of whom are children.
Round-the-clock support from UN agencies
Among other UN agencies are the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), UNICEF and the World Food Programme (WFP) working around the clock to help the refugees.
UNHCR has a long-standing presence in the region, including in Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Slovakia and Romania, and is coordinating the refugee response with other UN agencies and NGO partners, in support of national authorities. They are reinforcing their operations by urgently sending more resources, staff and relief items to the region while preparing to provide cash assistance as needed. In Poland, for example, staff are supporting the authorities by registering refugees and providing them with accommodation and assistance.
UNICEF is setting up ‘Blue Dot’ safe spaces at border points and other key locations in receiving countries to support delivery of emergency services to families. Blue Dot hubs offer a range of services, including safe spaces for mothers and children, psychosocial support, basic legal counselling, recreational kits and hygiene products.
The World Food Programme (WFP) said on Tuesday it was launching a three-month emergency operation in Ukraine to provide food assistance through in-kind food distributions, multi-purpose cash, and food vouchers that can be used in selected shops for people fleeing the conflict.
The agency is scaling up to reach up to 3.1 million civilians through the use of cash-based transfers as well as in-kind food distributions if required.
The first shipments of 400 tons of immediate response rations are on their way from Turkey to the Romanian and Polish border crossings with Ukraine.
Right now, the focus is on those people going to the border, getting support to Poland and Romania. WFP has trucks getting to the border in Poland and Romania with emergency healthcare, sanitation, education support and psychological support.
12 million people inside Ukraine will need protection in the future
“This is the darkest hour for the people of Ukraine,” said Martin Griffiths, the UN humanitarian affairs chief.
“We need to ramp up our response now to protect the lives and dignity of ordinary Ukrainians. We must respond with compassion and solidarity.”
At the end of the launch event in Geneva, Mr. Griffiths announced that $1.5 billion had been pledged for the humanitarian appeals. The UN Spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, welcomed the “outpouring of support” speaking to journalists in New York shortly afterwards.
“This is among the fastest and most generous responses a humanitarian flash appeal has ever received”, he said.
It is estimated that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than four million refugees may need protection and assistance in neighbouring countries in the coming months.
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