One million people forced to leave their homes because of Ukraine conflict, UN says

Families arriving in border regions without proper winter clothes in sub-zero temperatures

Nearly one million people have been forced to leave their homes because of fighting in eastern Ukraine, the United Nations’s refugee agency has said.

UN refugee agency teams on the ground are reporting families arriving in towns on the edge of the conflict zone with very few possessions and without proper winter clothes despite the Ukrainian winter’s sub-zero temperatures.

The number of displaced people remaining inside Ukraine is around 980,000 and still rising, according to figures collected by Ukraine's Ministry of Social Policy and released by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).

In addition, UNHCR estimates around  600,000 Ukrainians have fled to neighbouring countries, particularly Russia.

Significant numbers of people have also fled to neighbouring Belarus, Moldova, Poland, Hungary and Romania, since February 2014.

A UNHCR spokesperson said: “Local authorities have begun to evacuate people from conflict areas, but many are still trapped by the fighting, including in basements and buildings under constant bombardment.

“The evacuations are being organized by the government helped by local volunteers,” he added.

The Ukrainian government says towns close to the frontline of fighting in the Donetsk region are having difficulty coping with the influx of refugees.

Those fleeing the fighting have left in a mixture of organised evacuations and under their own steam.

In a press release the UNHCR emphasised that collapse of public services previously administered from Kiev has “drastically worsened the plight of the civilian population in areas not under government control”.

“This has been further aggravated by restrictions to the movement of people and goods. The surge in fighting has further limited the supply of urgently needed goods in the conflict areas.”

In the last month unpredictable outbreaks of fighting in Ukraine’s Dontesk region have continued, with reports of civilians casualties.