Continued US aid vital for Ukraine refugees returning home: UNHCR

UNHCR requires $993 million to fund its response to the crisis caused by the invasion, which marks its second anniversary on Saturday

By REUTERS
February 21, 2024
This image shows people carrying their belongings. — AFP/File

GENEVA: The UN refugee agency (UNHCR) said on Tuesday it was vital for the United States to maintain its funding of humanitarian agencies to ease the refugee crisis caused by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine two years ago.

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UNHCR requires $993 million to fund its response to the crisis caused by the invasion, which marks its second anniversary on Saturday.

A total of $600 million has been earmarked to repair houses and provide aid to ensure that those who fled can return home. But only 13 percent of the appeal has been funded so far.

“We are, of course, very much looking at the situation in the US, which is our main funder globally,” Philippe Leclerc, UNHCR Regional Director for Europe, told a briefing in Geneva via video link.

“The State Department is supposed to get additional budget possibilities, including for the aid to Ukraine, which has not yet been voted by Congress. Obviously part of that support could possibly go to UNHCR and other UN agencies to support refugees in Ukraine.”

The United States contributes more than 30 percent of UNHCR’s budget, Leclerc said, with the European Union, Germany and Japan the agency’s other top donors.

Russia’s invasion has forced some 6.3 million people in Ukraine to flee abroad. Another 3.7 million remain internally displaced, according to UNHCR.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is also trying to find out what happened 23,000 people - both on the Ukrainian and Russian sides - whose families have had no news of them.

This could be because they have been captured, killed or lost contact with their relatives after fleeing their homes.

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