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The U.N. now projects more than 8 million people will flee Ukraine as refugees

A Ukrainian refugee speaks with a local interpreter as she and her two children arrive at the Siret border crossing between Romania and Ukraine on April 18.
Daniel Mihailescu
AFP via Getty Images
A Ukrainian refugee speaks with a local interpreter as she and her two children arrive at the Siret border crossing between Romania and Ukraine on April 18.

Shortly after Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the United Nations refugee agency (UNHCR) predicted that some 4 million people would flee the country throughout the course of the war.

In fact, that's how many Ukrainians left their homeland in just about the first month of the conflict. And that number surpassed 5 million last week.

The UNHCR now projects that some 8.3 million refugees will leave Ukraine, and the agency is calling for more financial support for them and their host countries.

It's bringing together 142 organizations including U.N. agencies, Red Cross societies, nongovernmental organizations and faith-based institutions to revise what it calls its "Regional Refugee Response Plan" accordingly.

UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo said at a press conference in Geneva on Tuesday that the plan will prioritize food security, education, basic needs, sanitation, resilience and logistics, as well as transitional cash assistance.

"Launching an updated Regional Refugee Response Plan (RRRP) for the Ukraine situation yesterday, UNHCR and partners are seeking US$1.85 billion to support a projected 8.3 million refugees in neighbouring countries, namely Hungary, the Republic of Moldova, Poland, Romania and Slovakia, as well as other countries in the region, including Belarus, Bulgaria and the Czech Republic," she said.

Mantoo acknowledged that countries in the region have welcomed refugees since the start of the war, calling the mobilization of national authorities, host communities, grassroots organizations and volunteers "remarkable."

And while they have existing mechanisms to respond to the influx of refugees, Mantoo said, "The scale of refugee arrivals and the breadth of their needs requires further support for national social protection systems and services."

The response plan aims to ensure Ukrainian refugees have access to humanitarian assistance, safety and international protection, while also promoting social and economic opportunities, she added.

According to the UNHCR, some 7.7 million Ukrainians remain displaced inside of their home country, while another 13 million are estimated to be stranded in affected areas and unable to leave because of security risks. Of those who have been forced to flee their homes, 90% are women and children.

The agency says more "robust and flexible funding" will play a critical role in allowing neighboring countries to support and protect this growing population of refugees. Mantoo added: "Until we see an end to this war, humanitarian needs will continue to grow and displacement will not cease."

This story originally appeared in the Morning Edition live blog.

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Rachel Treisman (she/her) is a writer and editor for the Morning Edition live blog, which she helped launch in early 2021.