I have been deeply affected by the unimaginable human suffering and destruction that I have witnessed during the last four days spent in Ukraine.
For people here, the war that began six months ago is a painful, daily reality. More than 5,700 civilians have died and a further 8,200 have been injured; the actual toll likely being far higher. Millions of families have been uprooted, infrastructure destroyed, homes turned to rubble and essential services disrupted.
Over 6.9 million people are internally displaced, and more than 7 million others have fled outside Ukraine.
I was honored to meet His Excellency President Volodymyr Zelenskyy and Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba. We discussed the human cost of the war and what the International Organization for Migration (IOM) can further do to alleviate human suffering.
We agreed that more can and must be done by the international community, the United Nations (UN) and the Ukrainian diaspora to help the country recover and stabilize. I welcomed his commitment to work with IOM, the wider UN system and our local partners to ensure the continuity of aid, and eventual recovery.
While international support is focused on meeting humanitarian needs, we must also support sustainable livelihoods and work with the Ukrainian authorities and communities to rebuild and promote community stabilization. This can be achieved by supporting small and medium-sized enterprises, rehabilitating schools and repairing institutions that are providing vital support services.
IOM has already assisted close to 800,000 Ukrainians with relief items, cash support, and health services, among others. We are also supporting micro-businesses, small enterprises, and startups with cash grants, training and consultancy services. Some of these businesses had to relocate due to the war, others employ displaced people, providing a lifeline to those in dire need of income. These programmes are critical as nearly half of the internally displaced persons in Ukraine are not currently earning an income, according to IOM’s surveys.
Mental health and psychosocial support to displaced people and communities affected by the war was at the forefront of my discussions with Vice Prime Minster Iryna Vereshchuk and Minister of Health Viktor Liashko. This is a critical component of IOM’s response in Ukraine as we continue to boost the national capacity as well as deliver direct assistance tackling these issues.
I am humbled by the strength and resilience of the Ukrainian people in the face of immense challenges. Their love for their country and their commitment to rebuilding is truly inspiring. With winter approaching, many tens of thousands, perhaps millions of internally displaced persons will need help to get through the coldest months. We stand with them. We are already ramping up our winterization support to help people prepare for what will come.
Equally humbling and impressive is the work of our IOM staff, many of whom have themselves been displaced by the war or suffered great personal tragedies. They are demonstrating the best of humanity, bringing solace to the vulnerable and showing us all that there can, must and will be a brighter tomorrow.
Everywhere I have been in Ukraine and its neighbouring countries in recent months, Ukrainians have voiced their deep desire to return home. IOM will continue working with the Government of Ukraine and other partners to help create conditions that are conducive for their safe return.
Most importantly, all interventions, aid and support must embrace and empower local communities and engage the diaspora, who are indispensable to the recovery of Ukraine. We are committed to supporting Ukrainians in need with thanks to the steady and generous donor support we have received so far, and which I hope will continue for as long as necessary.