By Emma Farge
GENEVA (Reuters) – U.N. agencies on Tuesday launched an emergency appeal to respond to the soaring humanitarian needs following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, calling for $1.7 billion to help people who have fled the country and those still inside.
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the funds would go towards providing shelter, medical support and drinking water and said the global body would expand and scale up existing programmes and establish new relief ones where needed.
“We must help Ukrainians help each other through this terrible time,” Guterres said in a video statement shortly after U.N. agencies launched a flash appeal for Ukraine.
“The crisis has turned very ugly very fast,” Martin Griffiths, the U.N. aid chief said at a Geneva press briefing. “We must turn that initial shock and disbelief and uncertainty about the days to come into compassion and solidarity with the millions of ordinary Ukrainians who now need emergency relief.”
Filippo Grandi, UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said at the same briefing that 150,000 more people had fled the country in the last 24 hours, bringing the total number of refugees to around 677,000 in a trend he described as “extremely worrying”.
Around half of those people are in Poland, with another 60,000 people in Moldova, around 50,000 in Slovakia and 40,000 in Romania. The needs could grow significantly in the coming days, especially if strikes on cities intensified, driving people to leave in a hurry with few supplies, he added.
Asked how he expected countries to share the responsibility for hosting them, he said that refugees were currently “self-distributing” throughout Europe. He added that refugees were an international responsibility.
The United Nations already had staff in eastern parts of the country as part of an eight-year programme that was only 9% funded as of last week. Donations have increased sharply since then, including around $1 million of unsolicited, private donations to the humanitarian agency OCHA, Griffiths said.
(Reporting by Emma Farge; Editing by Alex Richardson)