UN Refugee Chief Worries War in Ukraine Is Being Forgotten

kyiv, ukraine — The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said Wednesday that he’s worried that the war in Ukraine has been forgotten as the country prepares to mark two years since the start of Russia’s full-scale invasion. 

In an interview, UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi also told The Associated Press it was important to remind the international community that Ukrainians were living through a brutal war despite other global crises taking the spotlight. 

Speaking at the end of a weeklong visit to Ukraine, Grandi said that the invasion launched by Moscow on Feb. 24, 2022, continues devastating civilians by leaving houses destroyed, health centers damaged, and many facilities not functioning. 

“I think the big difference from last year to this year is that this year, this is not news anymore in the world,” Grandi said. “There is somehow a trend towards getting used to Ukrainian suffering.” 

War displaces 10 million 

UNHCR put the latest figure of people who have been displaced from the war at 10 million — 3.7 million are considered to be internally displaced, while another 6.3 million are categorized as refugees. 

The agency has called for $4.2 billion to help Ukraine this year — slightly less than last year. 

“We made that choice because we are aware that there are so many crises in the world, that that’s a factor, and therefore we really focused on the priority needs,” Grandi said. 

Politics holding up aid, says official

The U.N. refugee chief said that he was concerned that discussion over the issue of humanitarian aid to Ukraine had now become held up by political wrangling. He urged the United States and the European Union to pass their aid packages saying it was his duty to “remind everybody that humanitarian aid should not be hostage of politics.” 

In December, EU leaders failed to agree on a four-year, $52 billion package of assistance for Ukraine. Hungary blocked the agreement, which requires unanimity from all 27 EU members. The bloc is working, however, to find a way for the remaining 26 countries to come up with the money before an EU summit on February 1. 

In Washington, senators are trying for a bipartisan deal that would include nearly $61 billion in aid for Ukraine and make changes to U.S. border policy. But Republicans are renewing a push to scale back the amount of assistance for Ukraine, targeting money that would go to Ukraine’s civil sector and arguing that European nations could step in to fund those needs. 

“I very much hope that those discussions can be unblocked and be concluded positively in both places — in the EU and in the United States,” Grandi said. “If those packages are stuck, I’m very worried that that humanitarian assistance will not come. That will have an immediate impact here.” 

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