870,000 Ukrainians return amid deteriorating food security – UN



By Cecilia Ologunagba

UN humanitarians on Thursday said no fewer than 870,000 people who fled abroad since the Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, have now returned home.

UN humanitarians said in their latest emergency update that the population returned to Ukraine amid concerns about deteriorating food security inside the country.

Citing the State Border Guard Service, UN aid coordination office, OCHA, said that 30,000 people are crossing back into Ukraine every day.

The recent returnees reportedly include women with children and older persons, compared to mostly men at the beginning of the escalation.

“This significant figure suggests that migration back to Ukraine might continue increasing, potentially creating new challenges for the humanitarian response.

“It will create new challenges 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.

Of the 12 million people in need in Ukraine, humanitarians have reached 2.1 million of them, and the UN’s US$1.1 billion flash appeal for Ukraine is now 64 per cent funded.

Fighting is concentrated in the eastern and southern oblasts – or regions – of Ukraine, causing damage and civilian casualties and driving humanitarian needs.

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 March 15, although the information only became available recently, as the city had been cut off for weeks.

In a statement, the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Martin Griffiths, said he was “deeply saddened” by news of the deaths.

“Both aid workers dedicated their lives to the service of others through their work for Caritas.

On behalf of the United Nations and the humanitarian community, I send our heartfelt condolences to their families and colleagues, and to those of the other civilians who were killed.

“This deeply tragic and unacceptable event is just one example of this war’s horrific consequences for civilians, including aid workers,” the UN relief chief added.

Meanwhile, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (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.

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.

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.

Also, the World Health Organisation (WHO) verified more than 100 attacks on health facilities in Ukraine, while supply routes within the country have been thrown into disarray. (NAN)