UN Geneva round-up: Ukraine vaccine campaign underway, over 8 million refugees expected to flee

Transit camp for Ukrainian refugees in Husi, Romania. (Credit: Alissa Everett/IOM)

A summary of the most critical issues being discussed at the United Nations in Geneva this week.

The UN projects the worst refugee crisis in recent history. The UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), in a revised projection, estimated 8.3 million people will flee the conflict in Ukraine this year. This is more than double what the agency had predicted when the war broke out.

Within two months, the conflict has forced 12.7 million people to leave their homes, of which five million have crossed the border to neighbouring countries. Almost 7.7 million people are displaced internally within Ukraine, as well as an estimated to be stranded in affected areas or unable to leave due to security concerns, according to UN figures. Of those forced to flee, almost 90 per cent are children and women.

Shabia Mantoo, UNHCR spokesperson, called for robust and flexible funding to sustain the protection of the displaced people. “Until we see an end to the war, the humanitarian conditions will continue to grow and the displacement will not cease,” she told the press on Tuesday.

Vaccination week in Ukraine. The World Health Organisation (WHO) in collaboration with the Ukrainian Ministry of Health is undertaking a vaccine campaign for children under the age of sixteen as part of the global immunisation week. Bhanu Bhatnagar, World Health Organisation (WHO) Europe spokesperson, called in from an immunisation centre in Rivne Oblast, four hours from Kyiv today where vaccines were provided to the internally displaced.

He reported that prior to the Russian invasion, Ukraine was seen as a poster child for health care reform, making strides in the coverage of measles and polio vaccinations. However the disruption due to the conflict have left many children non and under vaccinated.

“Internally displaced people are vulnerable and have been forced from their homes, and the healthcare systems are in crisis mode,” he said, emphasising the need to prevent regression on the progress made prior to the war.

Before the invasion, Ukraine had provided Covid-19 jabs to 40 per cent of the population; these efforts are also continuing.

As of yesterday, Bhatnagar reported 164 attacks on health care with 73 people dead and 52 injured.