Number of refugees fleeing war in Ukraine tops 5 million, says UN agency

GENEVA (Reuters) – More than five million Ukrainians have fled their country following Russian attacks, the United Nations said on Wednesday, in Europe’s fastest growing refugee crisis since World War II.

UNHCR, the UN refugee agency, said 5,034,439 Ukrainians had left since Russia launched the attacks on February 24, an increase of 53,850 from Tuesday’s total.

“Eight weeks into the conflict, we are at five million and counting, with five million unique stories of loss and trauma,” said UNHCR Deputy Chief Kelly T. Clements.

The UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) says more than 218,000 third-country nationals – mostly students and migrant workers – have also fled to neighboring countries, meaning that more than 5, A total of 25 million people have fled Ukraine since the start of the war.

Women and children make up 90% of those who have fled, with men between the ages of 18 and 60 eligible for military service and unable to leave.

Almost two-thirds of all Ukrainian children have been driven from their homes, including those still inside the country.

“While the scale and speed of displacement is immense, we must not lose sight of what these numbers mean,” Clements told the UN Security Council on Tuesday from Hungary.

“Women, children and the elderly have left their homes, their lives, their sons, their fathers and their husbands.

“Each of the millions of displaced people are forced to make impossible and heartbreaking decisions and have left everything, almost everything, that is dear to them.”

Nearly 1 million fled in April

More than 2.8 million Ukrainian refugees have fled to Poland. Three quarters of a million have reached Romania.

Clements paid tribute to the humanity demonstrated by refugees in host countries, with communities and individuals stepping up to provide food, shelter, medicine and transportation.

“This inspiring response is only surpassed by the strength and composure of the refugees themselves, who continue to show both courage and resilience,” she said.

UNHCR figures show nearly 645,000 Ukrainians fled in February, including nearly 3.4 million in March and just under a million so far this month.

Beyond the refugees, the IOM estimates that 7.1 million people are displaced in Ukraine.

Prior to the invasion, Ukraine had a population of 37 million in government-controlled areas, excluding Russian-annexed Crimea and areas controlled by pro-Russian separatists to the east.

IOM chief Antonio Vitorino has warned that more people are expected to flee their homes as the war continues.

“We remain deeply concerned about the continued deterioration of the humanitarian situation in Ukraine as we anticipate an increase in displacement, both internal and external,” he told the Security Council.

Vitorino said that in mass displacement situations, up to 30% of the population can be expected to experience some form of negative psychological impact and mental health issues.

“However, as the war continues and escalates, the psychosocial needs will undoubtedly increase further,” he said.

“We remain particularly concerned about the situation of women and children who have fled Ukraine or are internally displaced,” Vitorino added.

“Trafficking in persons was unfortunately a known phenomenon in the region and, as observed in past crises, large-scale displacement, separation of families and disruption of civil protection and community networks leave populations vulnerable to violence. , exploitation and abuse.