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12.8M people displaced in Ukraine since Russia launched war: UN human rights experts

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ZAPORIZHZHIA, UKRAINE - People from Mariupol, including from Azovstal metallurgical plant arrive in Zaporizhzhia, Ukraine on May 3, 2022 as Russian attacks continue. (Diego Herrera Carcedo - Anadolu Agency)
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May 06, 2022 - 08:58 AM

GENEVA (AA) – UN human rights experts said Thursday they are alarmed that nearly 12.8 million people have been displaced in Ukraine since Russia launched its war in late February, most of whom have not left the country.

They issued a call for urgent action to protect internally displaced people in Ukraine.

“According to the most recent estimates, 7.7 million people are internally displaced as a result of the conflict, which is equivalent to 17.5% of the entire population,” said the experts in a joint statement.

“These people have had to leave their homes and everything behind in a desperate attempt to escape death and destruction. They are traumatized and need urgent protection, including psychosocial support.”

The UN Refugee Agency, UNHCR, says that since Feb. 24, when Russia launched its war on its neighbor, 5,707,967 people have fled the country.

More than 3.1 million of those fleeing have gone to Poland and over 854,000 to Romania, more than half a million to Hungary, almost half a million to Moldova, and nearly 400,000 to Slovakia.

Of those fleeing, more than 714,000 have gone to or through Russia.

“This conflict has been causing extreme human suffering, with thousands of civilians killed and injured, and countless others living through daily bombardment and violence,” said the experts.

The UN Human Rights Office said Thursday that 3,280 civilians have been killed and 3,451 injured since the start of the war, but the “actual figures are considerably higher.”

The experts said homes, schools, hospitals, care institutions and entire cities were destroyed.

306 attacks on health

The World Health Organization (WHO) said that since Feb. 24, 306 attacks had taken place on health facilities in Ukraine in contravention of international humanitarian law and human rights law.

Mines and explosive remnants of war continue to pose alarming threats to civilians, including those remaining in their homes and those fleeing the conflict, said the experts.

“Multiple forms of gender-based violence are being reported, such as sexual exploitation and abuse and sexual violence, including conflict-related sexual violence,” they said.

The UN experts include Cecilia Jimenez-Damary, special rapporteur on internally displaced persons; Claudia Mahler, an independent expert on older persons’ human rights; Gerard Quinn, special rapporteur on persons with disabilities; Michael Fakhri, special rapporteur on the right to food; Reem Alsalem, special rapporteur on violence against women; and Siobhán Mullally, special rapporteur on trafficking in persons.

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