UNHCR warns of growing humanitarian needs in Eastern Ukraine

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A UNHCR staff member asks a displaced Ukrainian man about the situation in his native Donetsk region. © UNHCR/I.Zimova

About 730,000 Ukrainians have fled the country into Russia since the start of the on-going conflict in the eastern parts of the country, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR.

The agency says majority of those who have fled are staying in border areas, although Russian authorities have established some 600 temporary accommodation facilities which are hosting over 42,000 Ukrainians.

UNHCR says only about 169,000 people have sought to formalise their stay in Russia and applied for refugee status, temporary asylum or work permits.

Inside Ukraine, UNHCR has registered about 117,000 internally displaced people, majority of them women and children.

It however warns the continued bombardment and destruction of residential areas and public infrastructure is likely to increase the level of displacement significantly.

Vincent Cochetel is the head of UNHCR's European Office.

“Fighting in densely populated urban areas could lead to massive exodus and massive destruction. there are still 1.5 million people living in Donetsk as we speak. We don’t want to be involved with IDPs in Ukraine in 20 years down the line. so we need to avoid  the situation to be protracted, and facilitate voluntary return as son as possible and hopefully before the winter comes. 60 per cent of the 413 collective centers in Ukraine cannot be winterized. So we have to help the Ukrainian authorities to relocate those people. the UN will come up later on this week, hopefully, with some of  rapid response plan to mobilize resources because we are all short of resources to respond to that situation.” 

UNHCR says some 2,700 Ukrainians have applied for international protection across the European Union since the beginning of the year.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations, Geneva.

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