World Refugee Day, 20 June 2022
100 million people are displaced from their homes, including 12-year-old Polina
It’s World Refugee Day on 20 June and as the number of people fleeing Ukraine continues to increase, the global total of those displaced from their homes has now reached 100 million for the first time.
According to the UN Refugee Agency UNHCR, the number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts.
“One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi. “This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
According to new data from UNHCR, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose towards 90 million by the end of 2021, due to new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo. In addition, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year, and more than 6 million refugee movements from Ukraine have been registered.
The total number is shocking but behind each statistic are real people. Like 12-year-old Polina, who escaped Mariupol through a humanitarian corridor with her mother and pet dog.
World Vision staff met Polina at the Siret border crossing between Ukraine and Romania. She had just crossed over into safety after living through seven weeks of terror in the decimated city. She is now a refugee in Romania, along with her mother and her dog “Stitz”.
Polina’s recalls the horror …
“Every day we heard the sounds of airplanes, tanks and shooting in the streets. We have a two-floor home and one time we were in the basement and the whole house was shaking. A rocket blew up near our garden. Our neighbour’s windows were all broken and my friends who live near us had their roof fall in. Another friend’s house caved in and had no walls. One house was on fire and the walls fell. There was ash all over the city.
“It was scary, very scary.
“Everyone came over and we all started living together because our home wasn’t damaged. There were 12 of us. The first thing we lost was the gas, then we lost our lights and water. My father, grandfather and uncle would go outside to cook the food. When our food and water was finished, my father and some neighbours took a cart with bottles to draw from a well. It was very far away, they had to go a long way to get water.”
Checkpoint had been bombed
“We took a big risk and we decided it was time to leave. We tried joining a column of cars, but they weren’t allowed to leave the city at first because the Ukrainian checkpoint had been bombed. Eventually we were able to go.
“But Dad stayed behind because he can’t leave.
“We created a group of five cars with our neighbours. A projectile had created a hole in one of them. And another car had no windows. But we finally managed to get out.
“Just now, my friend back home was finally able to answer me. She was without a connection. They are now without a house because it crashed. Also, they don’t have a car because it was blown up.
“We are really worried about our relatives and we will continue to search for them. My cousin was injured by a fragment in the leg and his car was damaged by a tank after it moved through it.
“But everyone is still alive. We hope this will finish soon. And we will be able to return home.”
World Vision’s work with Ukrainian refugees
World Vision has been working with Ukrainian refugees since the start of the crisis, supporting children and their families with essentials and other critical services. The goal is to reach 300,000 people in Romania, Ukraine, Moldova, and Georgia within the next few months.
Provisions include food, hygiene kits, including soap and toothpaste, shelter, financial assistance and child-friendly kits with recreational activities and information on staying safe.
World Vision is also committed to addressing the psychological impact faced by refugees. Along with basic supplies, World Vision Romania will, in coordination with the Ministry of Education, offer educational activities for children and look at setting up transitional educational classes tailored to the children’s needs.
We also run Child Friendly Spaces. These offer a safe place where children can be themselves, be cared for and where they can start to heal after experiencing a stressful or traumatic event. As they have left their homes and all they know, including schools and education, children at the Child Friendly Spaces will be able to draw, play, read and learn.