Visiting Ukraine for the first time since the Russian military offensive, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi appealed today in the strongest terms for an end to the war, while calling on the international community to provide sustained support to the millions of civilians impacted by the fighting.
“The speed of the displacement, coupled with the huge numbers of people affected, is unprecedented in Europe in recent memory,” Grandi said, concluding the visit.
Civilians are suffering and more than 10.5 million people have been displaced either within Ukraine or abroad as refugees, around a quarter of the population. In total, 13 million people are estimated to be in urgent need of humanitarian assistance across the country.
“I have spoken with women, with children, who have been gravely affected by this war,” he added. “Forced to flee extraordinary levels of violence, they have left behind their homes and often their families, leaving them shocked and traumatized. The protection and humanitarian needs are enormous, and continue to grow. And while critically urgent, humanitarian aid alone cannot give them what they really need – and that is peace.”
Following meetings with Ukrainian Government officials, Grandi added, “I am deeply impressed by the humanitarian leadership and response from all levels of government in the country, as well as the selflessness and resilience of the Ukrainian people, who are hosting millions of their displaced compatriots.”
Grandi reiterated UNHCR’s commitment to stay and deliver for the people of Ukraine: in neighbouring countries, and inside their country. UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has been operating in Ukraine for 28 years, and is focusing its response on protection, emergency shelter, cash and in-kind support, under the overall leadership of the government and in coordination with the entire United Nations system.
With local authorities and community representatives, Grandi visited a reception centre for internally displaced people that was established and run by the authorities with UNHCR support. It is one of 70 centres that have already been assessed and equipped while others are being identified for refurbishment. UNHCR is expanding the capacity and improving the living conditions of reception centres so that they may host more internally displaced Ukrainians in need of shelter.
At the centre, Grandi witnessed people enrolling for cash assistance, a UNHCR programme launched to help particularly vulnerable displaced people – such as those with disabilities and elderly – to cover the costs of basic needs like accommodation, food, clothes and hygiene items. UNHCR’s program, which is being rolled out in multiple oblasts, aims to reach 360,000 people with US$80 million worth of support over an initial three months to complement the Government’s own social assistance programme.
But to respond at the scale needed, Grandi said, humanitarians must be able to deliver assistance safely to Ukrainians in need wherever they are.
“The entire humanitarian system is doing everything it can to reach people in need throughout the country, but the safety of aid workers and civilians receiving assistance must be guaranteed. This is a fundamental principle of International Humanitarian Law which must be respected. Lives are depending on it,” he said.
Grandi also appealed to the international community to provide even greater resources to the humanitarian response. “The support and solidarity shown so far by donors, neighbouring countries, and private individuals from around the world has been remarkable,” he said. “But the needs here in Ukraine are growing and the international community must continue to stand with Ukrainians in need.”