UN Refugee Agency chief warns humanitarian needs in the country remain acute and funding must be sustained and expanded.
KYIV – The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi, today concluded a six-day visit to war-torn Ukraine, his third visit since the Russian invasion, with a call for donors to stay the course and support the people who are suffering acutely.
He travelled through the south and east of the country, seeing the destruction and devastation, meeting seven heads of Oblast administrations, several mayors and many war-affected civilians in Odesa, Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Kharkiv, and Kyiv. He was also received by President Zelenskyy, Deputy Prime Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba.
“I was appalled by the level of destruction I saw as a result of Russian missiles and shelling,” Grandi said at the end of his visit. “Civilian infrastructure like power plants, water systems, kindergartens and apartment buildings have been damaged or destroyed. Civilians, including children and the elderly, have been killed or fled their homes, having their entire lives uprooted by these senseless attacks.”
Thanks to its network of Ukrainian partners – especially local NGOs and community-based organizations – and under the leadership and guidance of the Ukrainian government, UNHCR has substantially scaled up its response in the country since February last year, as part of the inter-agency response under the UN Humanitarian Coordinator.
The response includes expanding operations further east and south to hard-to-reach and newly-accessible areas, delivering cash and in-kind assistance to war-affected civilians, giving emergency shelter repair kits to those with damaged homes, carrying out housing repairs, and providing legal support and psychological counselling for those suffering the trauma of war. More than 4.3 million Ukrainians have been supported by UNHCR through these and other services and assistance since the start of the invasion.
UNHCR has also contributed to the Government’s network of ‘Invincibility Points’ – public shelters equipped with generators, heaters and Wi-Fi so people can ward off the worst of winter’s freezing temperatures, charge their batteries and have light and connectivity to work and study.
Grandi also witnessed Ukrainian officials and citizens repairing and rebuilding damaged infrastructure. “While buildings have been destroyed, the spirit of the Ukrainian people is unbroken,” he added. “I’m so inspired by their strength and resilience. It’s up to all of us – the international community – to support them as they embark on recovery. I call on States, international financial institutions and others to contribute to this task – and quickly.”
To facilitate coordination, the Ministry of Communities, Territories and Infrastructure Development, with UNHCR, launched “Ukraine is Home” – a digital platform to match supply and demand for assistance with housing repairs and reconstruction. It aims at providing a transparent and efficient system for humanitarian, recovery, development, private sector and other partners to pool funds and material support to help people, including refugees and internally displaced people, repair their damaged houses so they can return home.
While all this is necessary, Grandi also warned that the humanitarian needs remain acute, especially in the frontline regions of the country. Humanitarian funding must therefore be sustained and expanded. This is key for stabilizing populations and enabling war-affected people to contribute to the recovery of their country and economy. Noting that the UN appeals for both inside Ukraine and Ukrainian refugee response will be launched in Geneva on 15 February. Grandi added, “Donors – governments, business, and private individuals – have been incredibly generous over the past year. This must be sustained if we are to provide people with the support they urgently need today and for the coming year. I hope all our donors will continue to enable the response to these humanitarian needs.”
Grandi also confirmed that UNHCR has agreed to cooperate with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and other partners in building the capacity of the Ukrainian consular infrastructure, to better protect and assist Ukrainians abroad, including those planning to return home.
UNHCR also discussed with the authorities the situation of unaccompanied and separated Ukrainian children in the Russian Federation. Grandi said that UNHCR, with other international partners, will seek further access to them and advocate for solutions in their best interest, notably family reunification. He also reiterated that, in a situation of conflict, giving nationality and opening avenues for formal adoption of children violates international norms and practices.