20220305 ukraine refugees
People cross on an improvised path under a bridge that was destroyed by an airstrike, while fleeing the town of Irpin, Ukraine Image Credit: AP

Since the Russian attack began on Ukraine on February 24, more than 1.5 million have fled their homes and villages, communities and cities, seeking a safer haven in neighbouring countries.

An estimated 200,000 are joining this swell that is seen as one of the biggest humanitarian crisis in Europe since the Second World War.

The sheer volume of numbers had previously been witnessed during the onset of the civil war in Syria and the violent political and social upheavals brought about by Daesh as it sought to carve out its self-proclaimed caliphate. However, there is a far grimmer reality hitting now given that with a population of some 40 million before the Russian attack on Ukraine, millions could become refugees.

A wave of human detritus

Authorities in Poland are coping with the vast majority of new arrivals flooding their border communities, and so far, close to a million — mostly women, children and old men, have packed up their lives for a future that is uncertain. In Moldova, Romania and Hungary too, a wave of human detritus has flowed forth.

As always, ordinary families pay the price when the events of geopolitics unfold in conflict zones. And as always, humanitarian aid organisations struggle to deal with the tide of families that are uprooted due to conflict.

Over the weekend, several attempts to allow residents of towns and cities under attack in the east and south of Ukraine were scheduled, and while it is unclear of what happened on the ground, those attempted humanitarian corridors were choked off with little success at their critical objective.

While several rounds of talks have been held between Russia and Ukraine, the reality is that the fighting will soon enter its third week, and the inevitable result is that this refugee crisis will only grow in scale and numbers.

Around the world now, more than 80 million people live as refugees in a state of suspended existence as it were, hoping to return to their former homes, praying for peace. Their well-being depends on the generosity of organisations, governments and, ultimately, ourselves.

A new Russian ceasefire proposal to allow civilians to flee key cities offers some hope. It is also an urgent reminder that we must build on every opportunity to unite and understand in the hope of a lasting peace in Ukraine.