More than 14 million people fled homes in Ukraine since Russia invasion: UN

As second anniversary of conflict nears, millions remain displaced at home and abroad, with ‘no end in sight’ to war.

Anastasiia Korobchenko, 23, an internally displaced person (IDP) shows a picture of her destroyed house occupied by Russian troops in Rubizhne in Luhansk region
Anastasiia Korobchenko, 23, an internally displaced person (IDP), shows a picture of her destroyed house occupied by Russian troops in Rubizhne in the Luhansk region, amid Russia's attack on Ukraine, in the village of Lozuvatka, Dnipropetrovsk, Ukraine, on January 21, 2024 [Alina Smutko/Reuters]

The United Nations has said that more than 14 million Ukrainians were forced to flee their homes at some point in the two years since Russia’s invasion, as UN rights chief Volker Turk spoke of the “horrific human cost” of the conflict.

As Russia’s war in Ukraine grinds into its third year, the UN’s International Organization for Migration (IOM) said on Thursday that nearly 6.5 million people are now living outside the country as refugees.

It said an estimated 3.7 million people are still displaced within Ukraine.

Reflecting on the toll of the war, which started when Russia invaded its neighbour on February 24, 2022, IOM director general Amy Pope said: “The destruction is widespread, loss of life and suffering continues.”

While a total of more than 14 million people – nearly one-third of Ukraine’s population – fled their homes at some point during the war, the agency said that more than 4.5 million people returned home to date, from either abroad or displacement within the country.

Volker Turk, the UN high commissioner for human rights, warned on Thursday that there was “no end in sight” to the war, which had inflicted “immense suffering on millions of civilians”.

“[It] continues to cause serious and widespread human rights violations, destroying lives and livelihoods,” he said in a statement, as he renewed his call for Russia to end the conflict.

“The long-term impact of this war in Ukraine will be felt for generations,” he said.

In its latest report, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine said it been able to corroborate the conflict-related deaths of 10,582 civilians since February 2022. It had verified that 19,875 civilians had been wounded.

“The actual numbers are likely significantly higher,” it said.

Resources low

The IOM reported it had supported 6.5 million people in Ukraine and across 11 countries in Eastern Europe that were hosting refugees. But, it pointed out, needs were continuing to grow, outpacing resources.

Some 14.6 million people remain in need of some form of humanitarian assistance in 2024, IOM said.

For those who return home, the challenges are immense. Federico Soda, director of the IOM’s humanitarian response and recovery department, said returnees faced “insecurity, loss of livelihoods, damaged housing and infrastructure, and strained services”.

Since the start of the war, the agency has received $957m in donations. Overall, the UN says it needs $4.2bn this year to provide humanitarian aid in Ukraine and to refugees who have fled.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies