In the 50 days since the Russian army invaded Ukraine, 870,000 people had fled the country, most of them women and children, besides elderly people. Now, aid agencies are observing a reverse – people are coming back to where their homes were.
More than 870,000 people who fled Ukraine following the Russian invasion of their country on 24 February have now returned to their country.
The figures are embedded in the latest emergency update brought out by UN humanitarian agencies. The UN humanitarian aid coordination office, OCHA, said, citing the State Border Guard Service, that 30,000 people are crossing back into Ukraine every day, after about 50 days since the war began.
The recent returnees reportedly include women with children and older persons, compared to mostly men at the beginning of the escalation.
Latest data from the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, indicates that more than 4.7 million people have fled Ukraine since the war began. Another seven million are internally displaced.
Russia too has reported that more than 783,000 people – including nearly 150,000 children – have crossed into Russia from Ukraine since the war began on 24 February.
A different challenge
Fighting is concentrated in the eastern and southern oblasts – or regions – of Ukraine, causing damage and civilian casualties and driving humanitarian needs. OCHA also reported rockets strikes in central and northern Ukraine, before citing Ukraine’s State Emergency Service (SESU), which said that 300,000 square kms – or almost half of Ukraine – requires demining.
Humanitarians have reached 2.1 million of some 12 million people in need in the country, The UN’s US$1.1 billion flash appeal for Ukraine is now 64 per cent funded.
Does this mean that the UN appeal needs to be revised or revisited? 30,000 people returning daily could mean many people returning to nothing after homes were obliterated by Russian bombing.
“This significant figure suggests that migration back to Ukraine might continue increasing, potentially creating new challenges for the humanitarian response as people will need support to reintegrate into their communities or find suitable host communities if returning to their homes is no longer viable,” OCHA said in a statement.
Relief workers killed
In its latest emergency update, OCHA also reported that two humanitarian workers and five of their relatives have been killed in eastern Dontesk oblast.
They were sheltering at the Caritas Mariupol office when the building was reportedly hit by rounds fired from a tank, probably on 15 March, although the information only became available recently, as the city had been cut off for weeks.
Farming and rehabilitation
Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned that there are “immediate food insecurity issues” in nearly three in 10 oblasts – with a further 11 per cent of oblasts (that are partially exposed to fighting) expecting shortages within two months.
This concerns about deteriorating food security inside the country are not new, though. Rural and isolated communities have been worst-hit by food insecurity, FAO said, as it announced support for farmers to plant their fields, save their livestock and produce food.
Urgent cash support is also planned for the most vulnerable families, including those headed by women, the elderly and those with disabilities.
Image: Julia Kochetova / UNICEF