Displaced Ukrainians make their way to a platform at Lviv-Holovnyi railway station in Lviv, Ukraine, on March 14, 2022. Image Credit: Bloomberg

GENEVA: More than 7.7 million people are estimated to have been displaced within Ukraine by Russia’s war, after fleeing their homes, the United Nations said on Thursday.

This is in addition to the more than five million Ukrainians who have left the country entirely since Moscow’s troops began attacks on February 24.

The figure for the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs), issued by the UN’s International Organization for Migration, is significantly higher than the 7.1 million estimate it gave on April 5.

“Women and children, the elderly, and people with disabilities have been disproportionately affected, as they all represent a highly vulnerable group of people,” said IOM director-general Antonio Vitorino.

“Our work in support of those forced to flee their homes and all vulnerable populations affected by the war continues but a humanitarian ceasefire is crucial to allow for aid delivery and access to hard-to-reach communities.”

The IOM conducted its latest survey between April 11 and 17. Sixty per cent of current IDPs are estimated to be women.

Nearly 3.47 million people are estimated to have fled the eastern region, where Russia is now concentrating its assault; 1.77 million have fled the north and 1.46 million have left the Kyiv region.

The survey found that 37 percent of IDPs - 2.85 million people - are now in the relatively safer west of the country.

Safety fears

But it also estimated that nearly 2.8 million people had returned home by Sunday April 18 after an absence of at least two weeks.

An estimated 31 per cent have returned to homes in the north; 20 percent to Kyiv and 15 percent to the west. Smaller numbers have returned to other regions.

However, despite having gone home, 29 percent of returnees perceive their current location as somewhat unsafe. Only 8.5 per cent felt completely safe.

“It is premature to conclude with certainty about the nature of these return movements and if they are permanent or of a more temporary nature,” the IOM said.

The survey found that more than half of displaced households had children; 57 percent included elderly members; and 37 per cent had people with chronic illnesses.

A further 1.34 million people are estimated to be considering leaving their homes.

The rapid representative assessment was conducted through interviews with 2,000 anonymous respondents aged over 18 who were contacted at random by telephone.

The survey is used by the IOM to gather insights into internal displacement and mobility and to assess the humanitarian needs in Ukraine.