In less than two months since Russian troops started the war in Ukraine, 5 million Ukrainians have left their country and about 7 million are displaced internally, according to the U.N. Refugee Agency, or UNHCR.
Most Ukrainian refugees have sought refuge in neighboring European countries where they are being offered temporary protection and various services.
Ukrainians now make up the second largest refugee group in the world, second only to the more than 6.8 million Syrian refugees, and they have increased the total refugee population in the world to almost 32 million.
The war also has displaced 7.1 million Ukrainians inside the country — the largest conflict-related internally displaced population in the world.
“The war in Ukraine has triggered one of the fastest-growing displacement and humanitarian crises ever,” Babar Baloch, a UNHCR spokesman, told VOA.
To mitigate the refugee crisis, the UNHCR appealed for $550.6 million on March 1. The agency now says a new funding appeal, significantly higher than the previous, will be made soon to respond to the unfolding crisis.
“We will continue to expand our lifesaving aid to the internally displaced throughout Ukraine, especially in the center and the east, where a brutal humanitarian nightmare is unfolding,” Kelly Clements, deputy high commissioner at UNHCR, told the Security Council on Tuesday.
Risks of failure
Ukraine is only one of several humanitarian hotspots to which the aid agencies are trying to respond.
Afghanistan, Ethiopia and Yemen are some of the other nations that are generating millions of refugees who need urgent humanitarian assistance.
“We ask this Council to continue, even as we focus today on Ukraine, to consider the needs of all refugees from all corners of the globe. All those uprooted from their homes need the same solidarity. The same compassion. The same protection,” Clements said.
Two months before the start of the war in Ukraine, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) had warned that the global humanitarian system was at risk of failing.
“We are concerned that this latest war is making the situation even worse, from greater strain on scarce humanitarian resources to impunity for war crimes," Stefan Lehmeier, IRC’s deputy director of Europe programming, told VOA.
With global economies reeling from the pandemic, inflation, and rising market prices, donors’ response to some of the world’s other longstanding humanitarian emergencies, such as Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria, will be adversely affected, experts say.
The U.N. had requested $4.4 billion to respond to the crisis in Afghanistan in 2022. As of April 19, only 6.6% of the appeal has been funded by donors, according to the U.N.
The U.S. government has said it will accept 100,000 Ukrainians who flee the war in their country.
While several thousand Ukrainians have entered the U.S. through Mexico, only 12 were resettled last month through a program for the resettlement of Ukrainian refugees in the U.S.
This week, the U.S. Homeland Security Department (DHS) announced a Temporary Protected Status program for Ukrainian refugees and asylum seekers, which will provide a pathway to permanent settlement for about 59,600 Ukrainians who are already in the U.S.
The U.S. and its allies evacuated about 124,000 Afghans from Kabul in chartered military flights following the fall of Kabul in August 2021, and after briefing and processing them at transition centers in the Middle East and Europe, brought more than 80,000 Afghans to the U.S.
No such program has been implemented in the case of Ukrainian refugees so far, and DHS has advised Ukrainians “to apply for a visa or other legal pathway at a U.S. consulate abroad.”
Last month, the U.S. — the single largest humanitarian donor to Ukraine — announced an additional $1 billion in aid to meet the urgent needs of the Ukrainians displaced by the war.