UNHCR scales up for those displaced by war in Ukraine, deploys cash assistance
This is a summary of what was said by UNHCR spokesperson Matthew Saltmarsh – to whom quoted text may be attributed – at today's press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, has significantly stepped up its assistance in Ukraine and the neighbouring countries receiving refugees in response to acute humanitarian needs as the fighting intensifies.
In Ukraine, the UN estimates that there are now at least 1.85 million internally displaced people, and an additional 12.65 million people directly affected by the conflict. They are also contending with freezing temperatures.
Access to conflict-affected communities in hard-hit areas like Mariupol and Kharkiv remains very restricted due to the ongoing military activities and increased presence of landmines, exacerbating humanitarian needs by the day. Food, water, medicines and medical care, shelter, basic household items, blankets, mattresses, cash, building materials, generators and fuel are urgently needed.
The UN continues to negotiate to secure access, safety and security for the delivery of lifesaving aid. UNHCR repeats its urgent call for the protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure, respect for international humanitarian law, and again thanks neighbouring countries for keeping their borders open to those fleeing.
UNHCR staff are on the ground in Ukraine and – like the civilian population – remain caught up in the hostilities. We are committed to stay and deliver assistance when and where access and security allow. Our Office has scaled up its presence and operations in central and western Ukraine, where conditions enable more humanitarian access, and where needs are also growing as people evacuate to the west and onwards and become internally displaced. We are also coordinating with the local authorities to improve the reception conditions at the international border crossing points where people are waiting in line for hours.
UNHCR in Central and Western Ukraine
- UNHCR has opened warehouses in Vinnytsia, Uzhhorod, and Chernivtsi and two in Lviv. Core relief items for around 1.5 million people are being prepared for dispatch from UNHCR global stockpiles.
- On 26 February, UNHCR delivered core relief items for 2,000 people, including blankets, sleeping mats, jerry cans, kitchen sets and buckets to Kryvyi Rih in central Ukraine, where thousands of IDPs have arrived.
- On 8 March, four trucks with 8,600 thermal blankets and 3,000 mattresses arrived in Lviv from Poland. These will be used to scale up the capacity of reception centres for IDPs. In Lviv, 200 mattresses and 400 blankets have been distributed to reception centres run by local authorities.
- In Vinnytsia, UNHCR distributed over 1,000 blankets, 230 mattresses and sleeping mats to three transit centres with the most urgent needs. We also conducted needs assessments in 13 transit centres to inform forthcoming support. A humanitarian cargo departed for Dnipro on 10 March, for distribution in heavily affected areas in Mariupol as soon as safe passage is secured.
- UNHCR is working closely with authorities and partners to establish and expand reception capacity for IDPs particularly in Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk, Vinnytsia, Uzhgorod, Chernivtsi, and other localities and to provide key protection services. In Chop, UNHCR and partners are working with local authorities to support accommodation for 4,300 people and to provide legal, psychological and information support at reception points.
- Many stores in Ukraine now require payments in cash, making cash support critical. UNHCR is preparing to roll-out a pilot multi-purpose cash assistance programme, with WFP, through six registration centres to help IDPs meet their basic needs in Lviv. It will then be quickly expanded to other IDP-receiving region.
- At the international border crossing points, we are working with partners to provide heating points where people with specific vulnerabilities, such as pregnant women, people with disabilities, and older persons, can sit and stay warm while they wait for hours at the border. UNHCR partner NEEKA has been providing hot tea and snacks at border points with Poland.
- UNHCR is working with local authorities in western Ukraine to produce information materials that include QR codes for UNHCR Help sites, hotline numbers, referral roadmaps, and other resources to distribute at checkpoints.
- In Odessa, UNHCR is supporting a partner delivering food, tea and blankets at transit points in the train station, where evacuees from Mykolaiv arrive daily to move to western Ukraine.
In Eastern Ukraine
- UNHCR is coordinating with partner Proliska to supply humanitarian assistance from the west to the east; 1,400 square meters of tarpaulin and rolls of plastic films were delivered to households damaged in the shelling in Popasna, Novomykhailivka and Slavne to protect them from the cold, as well as baby food and hygiene items.
- UNHCR also delivered humanitarian supplies, including 2,000 cans of stewed meat and 700kg of frozen meat, to Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk and Popasna.
- In Luhansk, UNHCR supplied emergency shelter kits for onward distribution in Shchastia. Thermal blankets, plastic sheets, mattresses and jerry cans have been loaded in Dnipro to depart to Luhansk as soon as it is safe to drive.
- Working with the Donbas Development Center, UNHCR has delivered critical supplies such as bedlinen sets, towels, hygiene items to conflict-affected individuals in Donetsk NGCA.
Outside Ukraine, the number of refugees in neighbouring countries has exceeded 2.5 million, and UNHCR commends the efforts of hosts and the immense solidarity shown by locals, volunteers and humanitarian organizations, who have been providing support for accommodation, transport, food, and financial and material donations. In all neighbouring countries, reception and assistance is being provided by State authorities, civil society and volunteers.
UNHCR is working with the authorities and partners to roll out emergency cash programmes. The payments will tide refugees over, allowing more dignity and independence, until they can work or receive social support. It allows refugees to prioritize, while providing a boost to local businesses.
In Poland, UNHCR, Caritas Poland and other partners, have worked to get financial assistance to refugees, with the first families receiving payments today in Warsaw. The programme will quickly expand to towns and cities hosting large numbers of refugees. The project also partners with Santander Bank, using its BLIK instant payments system. Initial one-off payments, of the same value as the social assistance in Poland, will be made available to registered refugees.
In the Republic of Moldova, UNHCR, with the Ministry of Social Protection and a local partner, started emergency cash distributions on 28 February, while the mechanism for larger-scale assistance is being set up with more payments reaching vulnerable refugees in coming days. A one-off cash grant for host families is also being set up with the authorities.
For more information on this topic, please contact:
- At the Poland border, Matthew Saltmarsh, [email protected]; +41 79 967 99 36
- In Hungary, Zoran Stevanovic [email protected]; +36 (30) 530 9633
- In Geneva, Shabia Mantoo, [email protected]; +41 (79) 337 76 50
- In New York, Kathryn Mahoney, [email protected], +1 347 443 7646