The UN refugee agency is warning the ongoing Russia-Ukraine crisis could see the “largest refugee crisis this century”.
More than a million people have already crossed the borders out of Ukraine and up to 4 million are expected to flee the country over the next few months. To put this into context, 1.3 million people left Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq in an attempt to reach Europe during the 2015 refugee crisis.
Neighbouring countries such as Romania, Moldova, Hungary and Poland are the main recipients of Ukrainian refugees, but there are limited supplies to cope with the numbers, prompting a huge humanitarian effort.
MEET THE GUEST
To hear more about the unsung heroes of this ongoing humanitarian crisis, The Agenda’s Stephen Cole is joined by Kathryn Mahoney from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
The UN Refugee Agency is a global organization dedicated to saving lives, protecting human rights and “building a better future for refugees, forcibly displaced communities and stateless people”.
When asked by The Agenda’s Stephen Cole about how unprecedented a situation this is, Kathryn says it’s beyond anything they’ve ever encountered:
“We’ve never seen the likes of such a rapid exodus before, and it's important to recall that these are one million people who have fled one million women, one million children, elderly people, disabled. And these are the refugees that have made it to safety into neighboring countries.
“I do feel obligated to remind everybody that the crisis continues inside the borders of Ukraine, where the conflict continues to rage.”
Of the refugees who have fled, Kathryn says the vast majority are women and children who, for a number of reasons, need help urgently:
“In any situation like this, Trafficking is a massive risk. We're trying to tell Ukrainians what services are available (but) the needs are immense. People need shelter, people need shoes, the people need water…”
Asked about the international response, Kathryn Mahoney says although there is much support from around the world, more help is needed:
“We’ve all seen incredible solidarity, incredible hospitality from the neighboring countries who are opening their borders or homes to Ukrainians in need. It is so welcome and we're so appreciative of this.
“But the reality is that such numbers will strain local resources, strain states' capacities to welcome. And that's absolutely why we need to continue to support so that the warm welcome does not wear out.”
THE KEY QUOTES
“Until we can silence the guns and return to dialog and diplomacy, people will continue to flee”
“We are looking for people whose mental health is suffering; These are the invisible wounds of war”
“It's very hard for us to get an accurate picture in this fluid, violent, insecure situation.”