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Ukraine war: UN humanitarians launch $4.2 billion appeal for most vulnerable

Today, some 14.6 million people in the country need humanitarian assistance – or 40 per cent of the population – and 6.3 million have fled beyond its borders as refugees.

“We must stay the course” with the people of Ukraine, Mr. Griffiths told journalists in Geneva, adding that “no place” had been untouched by the war “and the wave of attacks that began just before the new year”.

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Amid “constant bombardment” along the front line with Russia and in Ukrainian cities in recent weeks, Mr. Griffiths highlighted the devastating civilian cost of the war, particularly in the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, where families shelter in damaged houses with no piped water, gas or electricity.

Resources spent

People in the most exposed villages have now exhausted “their own meagre resources” and rely on aid deliveries to survive, in close coordination with the Ukrainian government’s own efforts, the UN emergency relief chief continued.

Reported drone and missile strikes have also forced people and particularly the elderly to spend their days in basements. Children cannot play outside, let alone attend school, according to UN humanitarian coordination office, OCHA.

To ensure the UN and hundreds of aid partners inside Ukraine can reach 8.5 million of the most vulnerable individuals, a total of $3.1 billion will be required this year.

In 2023, aid workers reached nearly 11 million people in Ukraine, with the support of the international donor community and despite “extreme access challenges” especially to areas occupied by the Russian Federation, OCHA said.

Worst of the war

Ukrainian refugees in 11 neighbouring countries also need increased and sustained support, said UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, as he appealed for an additional $1.1 from donors in 2024 to help 2.3 million people displaced by the conflict, along with host communities.

“Most likely what we have seen in the last month I would say is one of the worst periods of the war in terms of impact on civilians,” Mr. Grandi said, as he insisted that “the priority” remained helping people in Ukraine.

Together with the six million who fled the country in the first few months of the conflict, some 10 million are now “not in their homes”, making this still the largest displacement crisis in the world, the UNHCR chief insisted.

Citing UN migration agency (IOM) data, the UNHCR chief said, that 900,000 people initially uprooted by the war are estimated to have returned to Ukraine.

But some are still displaced and require assistance since they are unable to return to their homes that have been either destroyed or are on the frontline and too dangerous to live in, he explained.

Managing expectations

The fact that the UNHCR 2024 appeal is lower than last year’s $1.7 billion ask reflected “diminishing” needs and “exemplary” support from governments in the European Union (EU), where the bulk of Ukraine’s displaced have found shelter, Mr. Grandi said.

Nonetheless, needs remain high in Moldova – a non-EU country – where refugees need to work and require sustained access to education and health services.

“Despite efforts for inclusion, only half of school-age refugee children are enrolled in schools in host countries, while a quarter of refugees in need struggle to access healthcare,” UNHCR said. “Only 40 to 60 per cent are employed, often below their qualifications, and many remain vulnerable with no means to support themselves.”

Latest data from the UN human rights office, OHCHR, indicates 27,449 confirmed civilian casualties in Ukraine, comprising: 9,701 killed and 17,748 injured. The actual figures are likely considerably higher, OHCHR said, citing delays linked to intense hostilities and corroboration in places including Mariupol (in the Donetsk region), Lysychansk, Popasna and Sievierodonetsk (Luhansk region).

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