People fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine taking shelter in Tiszabecs, Hungary. People fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine taking shelter in Tiszabecs, Hungary. 

Ukraine: UN’s $1.7 billion appeal for refugee exodus, host countries

United Nations agencies on Tuesday launched an emergency appeal for $1.7 billion for the humanitarian needs of people fleeing Russia's invasion of Ukraine, both within the country and in its neighbouring countries.

By Vatican News staff reporter

The United Nations chief said the funds were needed to boost critical medicine and health supplies, safe drinking water, shelter and protection.  Even before the Russian invasion, the humanitarian agencies were reaching three million people in east Ukraine.  The UN will now expand and scale up those programmes, and establish new operations wherever they are needed, across the country, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said in a video statement shortly after UN agencies launched the appeal for Ukraine in Geneva. 

Fast-developing crisis

The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than 4 million refugees may need protection and assistance in neighbouring countries in the coming months.  "We must help Ukrainians help each other through this terrible time," Guterres said.

"The crisis has turned very ugly very fast," Martin Griffiths, the U.N. aid chief said at a Geneva press briefing. "We must turn that initial shock and disbelief and uncertainty about the days to come into compassion and solidarity with the millions of ordinary Ukrainians who now need emergency relief."

At the same briefing, Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees said that 150,000 more people had fled the country in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of refugees to around 677,000 in a trend he described as "extremely worrying".

Around half of those people are in Poland, with another 60,000 people in Moldova, around 50,000 in Slovakia and 40,000 in Romania. The needs could grow significantly in the coming days, especially if strikes on cities intensified, driving people to leave in a hurry with few supplies, he added.

“Civilians and civilian infrastructures must be protected and spared, and humanitarian access must be granted for those delivering aid to those impacted by war,” Grandi stressed, warning that “failure to do so will compound the already extraordinary levels of human suffering”.

Alleged discrimination

There have been reports of discrimination against non-Ukrainian or non-European refugees at some of the entry points to Ukraine’s neighbours, and people's reference to them using discriminatory or racist taunts.

Reacting to the reports, the UN refugee chief insisted, “At this critical juncture, there can be no discrimination against any person or any group,” Ukrainians and non-Ukrainians, Europeans and non-Europeans, all of whom are now forced to escape the violence.

The UN Secretary-General urged the international community to respond to the life-saving appeals.  However, he stressed, “The most effective humanitarian relief is to silence the guns.”  “Now, more than ever, we must intensify our efforts for peace, everywhere,” Guterres urged. While thanking all countries that have taken peace initiatives on Ukraine, he pledged the UN’s support.  “Soldiers must return to their barracks.  Leaders must turn to diplomacy, he said, calling on all those with influence to use it to “end this senseless conflict”. 

Positive response to appeal

At the end of the launch event, Griffiths announced that $1.5 billion had been pledged for the humanitarian appeals.  The UN refugee agency, UNHCR, has already received more than $40 million in private contributions from individuals or companies, an “unprecedented” feat, which Grandi said “I’ve never seen it and I think it's positive.

Speaking to journalists in New York shortly after the appeal, UN Spokesperson, Stephane Dujarric, welcomed the "outpouring of support". 

02 March 2022, 16:58