UN seeks $1.7 billion for urgent Ukraine aid

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The United Nations launched an emergency appeal Tuesday for $1.7 billion to provide urgent humanitarian aid to people caught up in the Russian invasion of Ukraine and refugees fleeing the fighting.

The UN estimates that 12 million people inside Ukraine will need relief and protection, while it projected that more than four million Ukrainian refugees may need help in neighboring countries in the coming months.

“This is the darkest hour for the people of Ukraine,” UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths said in a statement.

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“We need to ramp up our response now to protect the lives and dignity of ordinary Ukrainians. We must respond with compassion and solidarity.”

The UN’s flash appeal wants $1.1 billion to assist six million people inside Ukraine for an initial three months.

The aid program includes cash for the most vulnerable people, food, water and sanitation, support for health care and education services, and shelter assistance to rebuild damaged homes.

The plan also aims to support the authorities in maintaining and setting up transit and reception centers for displaced people.

“Families with small children are hunkered down in basements and subway stations or running for their lives to the terrifying sound of explosions and wailing sirens. Casualty numbers are rising fast,” Griffiths said.

Ukraine says more than 350 civilians have been killed since the Russian invasion began six days ago.

More than 660,000 refugees have fled Ukraine for safety in neighboring countries, while around a million people are estimated to be internally displaced, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said Tuesday.

“We are looking at what could become Europe’s largest refugee crisis this century,” said UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi.

“While we have seen tremendous solidarity and hospitality from neighboring countries in receiving refugees, including from local communities and private citizens, much more support will be needed to assist and protect new arrivals.”

An inter-agency refugee response plan is seeking a preliminary $550.6 million to help refugees in Poland, Moldova, Hungary, Romania, Slovakia and other countries in the region.

The appeal is to help provide shelter, emergency relief items, cash assistance and psychosocial support.

Russian forces struck cities in eastern Ukraine and massed armored vehicles and artillery near the capital Kyiv on Tuesday, as Western powers promised further sanctions to punish Moscow.

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