More than 3 million people have fled Ukraine in less than three weeks. In the coming days, they could reach a staggering 4 million, according to UNHCR estimates. Currently 2 million people have left their homes inside the country and military operations are now being compounded by freezing temperatures.
More than half of the people who fled Ukraine took refuge in Poland (1.8 million), but also in Moldova (337,000), Hungary (263,000), Romania (453,000), the Russian Federation (143,000) or Slovakia (213,000). Another 304,000 people have fled to other European countries, which have generously opened their doors.
On 25 February, UNHCR declared level 3 emergency - the agency's highest level - in Ukraine and level 2 in neighbouring countries. The military offensive has led to an immediate increase in humanitarian needs, both inside the country and in neighbouring countries hosting refugees. But access to conflict-affected communities in hard-hit areas such as Mariupol and Kharkiv remains very limited due to ongoing military activities and the increased presence of landmines.
UNHCR is assisting the authorities in setting up and organizing reception centres for people displaced in Ukraine. In coordination with local partners, UNHCR is working to cover the most urgent needs and provide food, water, medicines, shelter, hygiene items for women and children, blankets, mattresses, cash, construction materials, generators and fuel. UNHCR is also developing a protection monitoring tool to strengthen the identification of people with specific vulnerabilities and needs, such as unaccompanied children, women at risk, and elderly people with medical problems.
Basic relief items for around 1.5 million people, mobilized from UNHCR's global stocks, are being delivered to Ukraine. Several warehouses have been opened in Vinnytsia, Uzhhorod, and Chernivtsi and two in Lviv, and several trucks from Poland have been able to bring in thermal blankets and mattresses. Thousands of blankets, mattresses, jerry cans and kitchen and construction tools have also been delivered to central Ukraine, where thousands of IDPs have arrived. A humanitarian shipment left for Dnipro on 10 March, to be distributed in the heavily affected areas of Mariupol as soon as the crossing is secured.
Many shops in Ukraine now require cash payments, making cash support crucial. UNHCR is preparing to roll out a pilot multi-purpose cash assistance programme to help internally displaced people meet their basic needs in Lviv. In times of crisis, cash is what people need and what is most effective. UNHCR plans to rapidly extend it to parts of the country to assist uprooted people inside Ukraine.
In neighbouring countries, too, this vital cash will help refugees regain their dignity and independence until they can work or receive social assistance. Cash allows beneficiaries to set their own priorities while supporting the local economy.
UNHCR is grateful for the tremendous solidarity shown by host countries and their people, as well as volunteers and humanitarian organisations, who have provided support in terms of accommodation, transport, food, and financial and material donations.
In Switzerland, in addition to the support of many companies and foundations, UNHCR was able to count on the generosity of the population to help those forced to flee Ukraine. In just a few days, the Swiss population has rallied behind UNHCR's humanitarian response in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. The funds raised so far are allowing, for example, to provide vital cash assistance to more than 4,000 refugees in neighbouring countries to cover their most basic needs. It is thanks to people like you and me that UNHCR can continue to provide support, and we would like to thank every donor from the bottom of our hearts for their help.
As the number of people forced to flee to Ukraine continues to grow, so do their needs. In order for UNHCR to be able to help all those affected by the crisis, over 500 million Swiss francs are needed. Every single donation and action you take to support refugees counts.