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UN expects over 8 million Ukrainians to flee as refugees

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Residents gather in a basement used as a shelter after hearing the sound of a nearby shelling attack in the frontline town of Hulyaipole, southeast of Zaporizhzhia on April 25, 2022. Ed JONES / AFP

More than eight million Ukrainians could flee as refugees this year, the United Nations said Tuesday, doubling its aid appeal for those stuck inside the war-ravaged country.

More than 5.2 million Ukrainians have already fled the country in the two months since Russia launched its full-fledged invasion on February 24, fuelling Europe’s fastest-growing refugee crisis since World War II.

The UN refugee agency, which initially forecast that up to four million people would flee this year, said it would need $1.85 billion to support refugees in neighbouring countries.

The latest projected number was reached “in collaboration with the authorities and neighbouring countries,” UNHCR spokeswoman Shabia Mantoo told reporters in Geneva.

“But it is important to remember that this situation is highly dynamic.”

The UN humanitarian agency has more than doubled its estimate for how much money is needed to assist people inside Ukraine.

The UN launched a flash appeal on March 1, calling for $1.1 billion to help some six million people inside the country over three months.

On Tuesday, the humanitarian agency OCHA said it now estimated that more than $2.25 billion was necessary to address the escalating needs inside Ukraine, and said the appeal was meant to cover assistance through August.

The number of people estimated in need of humanitarian aid in Ukraine has swelled to 15.7 million, up from 12 million earlier.

The revised appeal aims to help 8.7 million in most dire need of assistance, OCHA spokesman Jens Laerke told reporters.

He said that so far, donors had provided $980 million, covering 44 percent of the updated appeal.

Those funds, he said, have “enabled the UN and our partners to reach 3.4 million people inside Ukraine with some kind of humanitarian assistance.”

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