More than 5 million people have fled Ukraine since Russian invasion began, UN refugee agency says
More than five million people have fled Ukraine since Russia launched its invasion on 24 February, the United Nations refugee agency said.
The UN High Commissioner for Refugees, based in Geneva, on Wednesday put the total number of refugees at 5.01 million.
With a population of about 44 million, this means that more than a tenth of the Ukrainian population has left the country in almost eight weeks.
Children sit in a refugee center in Nadarzyn, near Warsaw, Poland (AP)
At the end of March, the UNHCR reported that more than 4 million refugees had fled the country. In just 21 days, this number has jumped by another one million people.
Follow our live updates on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine here
According to the latest update from the UNHCR, more than half of the total – around 2.8 million – fled at least at first to Poland, where they are eligible for national ID numbers that entitle them to work, to free health care, schooling and bonuses for families with children.
Although many have stayed in the bordering nation, an unknown number have travelled elsewhere.
The mass exodus from the war-torn country has somewhat slowed in recent weeks when compared to the start of the conflict.
Ukrainian refugee children receive soft toys from a Romanian fireman after arriving at the Siret border crossing between Romania and Ukraine (AFP via Getty Images)
In addition to the refugees, the UN said that more than 7 million people have been displaced within Ukraine. A further 13 million are also believed to be trapped in the country’s worst-affected areas.
“We’ve seen about a quarter of Ukraine’s population, more than 12 million people in total, have been forced to flee their homes, so this is a staggering amount of people,” UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told The Associated Press.
Further south in Hungary, out of more than 465,000 who arrived, some 16,400 have applied for protected status, meaning they want to stay, while neighboring Romania has received over 750,000 refugees from Ukraine.
A volunteer helps sort donated clothing for Jewish refugees from Ukraine in Berlin (Getty Images)
Mantoo said the “outpouring of support and the generosity” shown to arriving Ukrainian refugees has been “remarkable.”
“But what is important is that it is sustained and that it is channelled across to ensure that refugees are enabled to receive that support while the fighting continues, while they are unable to return home,” she said.
It follows an appeal from the UN secretary-general António Guterres on Tuesday in which he called for a “humanitarian pause to the war in Ukraine.
This map shows the extent of the Russian invasion of Ukraine (Press Association Images)
He called on all parties involved in the conflict to join his “Easter appeal” to “save lives. Stop the bloodshed and destruction. Open a window for dialogue and peace.”