Ukrainian refugee crisis ‘really heartbreaking’ in Romania

Russia At War

People wait in a line to board a train leaving for Lviv in Ukraine at the train station in Przemysl, Poland, Monday, March 14, 2022. While tens of thousands of people have fled Ukraine every day since Russia’s invasion, a small but growing number are heading in the other direction. At first they were foreign volunteers, Ukrainian expatriate men heading to fight and people delivering aid. But increasingly, women are also heading back. (AP Photo/Daniel Cole)

(NewsNation) — The United Nations refugee agency announced a staggering milestone: More than 3.5 million refugees have now left Ukraine.

Poland has taken in the largest number of refugees — more than 2.1 million — but a humanitarian crisis is worsening in Romania and surrounding countries as well.

Romania has now welcomed more than 540,000 refugees from Ukraine.

Workers with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) say it is a nonstop operation in Romania to get humanitarian aid to those in need.

“The other day, I saw one mother pushing a stroller with one hand and pulling her luggage with the other; they just left with whatever they could carry,” said Jenelle Eli with IFRC. “Some people are crossing by ferry, they’re crossing the Danube River, others by bridge, and others are walking in the cold to get into Romania.”

Moldova, Slovakia and Hungary have also taken in refugees.

James Elder, a spokesman for UNICEF, said some 1.4 million children have fled Ukraine since the invasion — or about 73,000 per day on average.

That, he said, amounts to “55 every minute. So we are almost — since war started on the 24th of February — (at a point where) a child has become a refugee out of Ukraine every second.”

The European Commission on Wednesday set out plans to ensure people fleeing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have access to jobs, education and housing after an unprecedented flow of refugees into the European Union.

“Nearly 3.4 people, overwhelmingly women and children, have already arrived in the EU after fleeing Ukraine. Both the scale and speed are unprecedented, with a child arriving in the EU every second on average,” Commission Vice-President Maros Sefcovic told a news conference.

In Romania, the IFRC says people need the basics, things such as diapers, formula and shelter. The need for sim cards and chargers for their phones, so they can keep in touch with family, is rising.

“It’s actually been really heartbreaking here in Romania,” Eli said. “But it’s also been amazing to see community members just coming together to help people. I mean, we’ve seen people crossing the border. And if they’re not able to walk well, people run over to them with wheelchairs.”

The United States plans to launch an effort this week to make it easier for some to enter after only a handful of refugees were admitted in the first two weeks of March, according to three people familiar with the matter. 

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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