© UNHCR / Valerio Muscella
Location icon Ukraine

“At this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century”

More than 3.6 million people have now fled Ukraine

Olga and her children are among more than 3.6 million refugees who have fled Ukraine to find safety in neighbouring countries. Most are women, children, the elderly, and people with disabilities – all deeply shaken by the arduous journey. Many more are still trying to find safe passage.

Olga’s journey to Poland, which would usually take seven hours, took three days. Olga fled with her two-year-old son and eight-year-old daughter, together with a neighbour.

“We fled as soon as the first bombs fell. It took us 12 hours just to get out of Kyiv. We’ve been [waiting] here for 36 hours now.”

The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while more than 4 million refugees may need protection and assistance in neighbouring countries in the coming months.

“At this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century, and UNHCR is mobilising resources to respond as quickly and effectively as possible,” said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo.

Rf1207353 C32a9202 1
A UNHCR staff member talks to six-year-old Milana who fled with her family from Kramatorsk in the Donetsk region in the east of the country. They are housed in temporary accommodation in a university dormitory in Mukachevo, western Ukraine. © UNHCR/Igor Karpenko
Extension At This Rate The Situation Looks Set To Become Europe S Largest Refugee Crisis This Century Poland
Natalya and her mother Yulia, who fled the Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, sought refuge in a reception centre set up in the sports hall of a school in the Polish border town of Medyka. © UNHCR/Valerio Muscella

Two weeks ago, Milana, 6, woke to the sound of heavy shelling outside her home in Donetsk, eastern Ukraine. As the bombs fell, her father piled the family into the car and drove them to safety. Then he turned back around. He was going home to fight.

Now, Milana is living with her mother and baby sister at a university dorm in Mukachevo, transformed into temporary accommodation for people displaced by the conflict. In their cramped room, Milana draws colourful pictures of castles and hearts.

“For my dad,” she says. “We miss him.”

Commendably, all neighbouring countries have kept their borders open for refugees fleeing Ukraine. Most have fled to Poland, Hungary, Moldova, Romania or Slovakia, while others have continued onwards to various other European countries.

A school sports hall in the border town of Medyka, Poland, has been transformed into a reception centre for refugees. Natalya and her elderly mother, Yulia, who fled the city of Kharkiv, are among those sleeping on narrow camp beds with no privacy. Across the hall, a young woman, Valentina, is caring for her friend’s baby daughter. They don’t know what their future holds. 

Within Ukraine, nearly 6.5 million people have been internally displaced in their search for safety. In Lviv, citizens are sheltering in bunkers that haven’t been used since World War II. The temperatures are below freezing at night, however, many are without power, water and heating due to damaged infrastructure.

See also: UNHCR delivering cash assistance in Ukraine emergency ​

"UNHCR is mobilising resources to respond as quickly and effectively as possible"

With the support of generous Australians, UNCHR is sending supplies to Ukraine and neighbouring countries. To date, we have:

  • Delivered emergency relief items, including food, sleeping mats and water jerry-cans, to thousands of displaced people in Ukraine
  • Distributed thermal blankets, baby kits, hygiene items, solar lamps and tents to refugees arriving in Moldova
  • Provided assessment tools to help border authorities identify and support those most in need in Romania
  • Established a dedicated help line for refugees arriving in Poland that is receiving 200 calls per day
  • Helped authorities establish and operate reception centres across the region

UNHCR staff will stay and deliver for as long as this crisis continues. Our staff are working in incredibly difficult circumstances to provide support and protection to everyone who needs our help. And we will continue to call for the protection of civilians and reliable access for humanitarian relief.

The needs will continue to rise as the crisis escalates daily. Your generous donation means we can help displaced people find safety and meet their most basic needs.

DONATE NOW

Extension At This Rate The Situation Looks Set To Become Europe S Largest Refugee Crisis This Century Aid
UNHCR unloads emergency supplies in Lviv in western Ukraine. Three thousand blankets have been distributed to IDPs in Lviv. © UNHCR/Valerio Muscella

Related Stories

View all stories
Rf1207358 C32a9301 1
Location icon
Ukraine

UNHCR delivering cash assistance in Ukraine Emergency

Cash assistance will provide a lifeline for displaced families fleeing conflict

© UNHCR / Valerio Muscella
Location icon
Ukraine

“At this rate, the situation looks set to become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century”

More than 3.6 million people have now fled Ukraine

© UNHCR/MACIEJ MOSKWA
Location icon
Ukraine

Cash offers a lifeline to refugees arriving in Poland

UNHCR’s cash assistance program helps refugees from Ukraine cover their most urgent needs

Our fundraising commitment

The majority of funds raised by Australia for UNHCR are directed to UNHCR’s emergency operations, providing the ready funds and resources to respond quickly and effectively in situations of crisis and disaster.

78%
Humanitarian programs
12%
Admin
10%
Funding