The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Ukraine’s refugee exodus tops 4 million — nearly 10% of prewar population

Children who fled Ukraine play in Chisinau, Moldova, on March 29. (Dumitru Doru/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)
Placeholder while article actions load

More than 4 million people have fled Ukraine, the United Nations said Wednesday — meaning that nearly 10 percent of the prewar population has poured out of the country in about five weeks.

The exodus, staggering in its scale and speed, has turned into the fastest-growing refugee crisis in Europe since World War II. The conflict has forced about 1 in 4 people out of their homes, seeking refuge within the country or across its borders. It has also uprooted half of Ukraine’s children, raising fears of the threat of human trafficking, The Washington Post reported this month.

Inside the country, fighting has displaced at least 6.5 million people since Russian tanks rolled in on Feb. 24, according to the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR. Millions more are stranded “or unable to leave due to heightened security risks, destruction of bridges and roads, as well as lack of resources or information,” it said earlier.

Half of Ukraine’s children forced from their homes, U.N. says

“We are confronted with the realities of a massive humanitarian crisis that is growing by the second … 4 million lives torn apart,” the agency wrote Wednesday after its chief, U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi, arrived in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, near the Polish border, which has become a hub for the internally displaced. He said the goal of the visit was to find ways “to increase our support to people affected and displaced by this senseless war.”

More than half the refugees crossing the border have entered Poland, while others have gone to neighboring countries such as Romania and Moldova, including about 350,000 people to Russia, according to the latest UNHCR figures. The International Organization for Migration has said nearly 200,000 non-Ukrainians who were living in the country have also had to escape.

Nearly 1 in 4 people in Ukraine forced out of their homes since Russia’s invasion

Along Ukraine’s border, lines into Poland stretched for miles as the war escalated, with people waiting through frigid days and nights. Many later moved on to other parts of the European Union, which enacted unprecedented measures to allow Ukrainians “temporary protection” anywhere in the 27-country bloc for up to three years.

While the daily flood of people out of Ukraine has slowed in recent days, officials in Polish cities including the capital, Warsaw, have appealed for help as they warned that reception centers are nearing or at capacity.