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The Price the World's Forcibly Displaced could Pay

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Introduction

The Ukraine war is a conflict with enormous regional and global repercussions, including for the scale, reach and effectiveness of UNHCR’s work around the world. The staggering scale of that emergency has increased UNHCR’s 2022 budget by more than $1 billion, to $10.534 billion.

While UNHCR has received around $1 billion to support its Ukraine response – more than half coming from the private sector – it has become clear over the past weeks that total government contributions to UNHCR will reach about the same level as last year, despite the massive additional needs as a result of the war in Ukraine. The consequence is that the rest of the world’s forcibly displaced people are paying the price. Put simply, because overall costs have risen, UNHCR needs extra funding simply to maintain current levels of assistance for those it serves. The repercussions of the Ukraine crisis will result in more people being forcibly displaced and, thanks to food shortages and price rises, increase vulnerability among those already at risk.

These are exceptional circumstances that require an exceptional call for support.

Support for UNHCR’s operations other than Ukraine must remain at least at 2021 levels, and the response for Ukraine met through additional funding. If this does not happen, UNHCR will face almost impossible choices as to which of its commitments it will need to slash, with incalculably dire consequences for people living in countries in the grip of intractable and desperate humanitarian crises.

These same countries are largely those where the inflation, food shortages and fuel price hikes resulting in part from the war in Ukraine are most acutely felt. We identify 12 of them in this document.

UNHCR needs to raise over $1 billion on top of what it received in 2021. Without it, this agency will be forced to reduce its protection and assistance delivery in key operations by about 17% compared with previous years – and that’s before any additional costs due to inflation. In real terms, the cuts may be as much as 25%.

This would include slashing close to $340 million in cash assistance – nearly half the level of 2021. What’s more, UNHCR estimates that 12% fewer children would have access to schooling; 25% fewer displaced people would have access to shelter; 23% fewer would have access to health facilities.

The consequences for forcibly displaced people and their hosts will be devastating and many of the most vulnerable may resort to dangerous journeys across borders. Host countries could come under pressure to limit access to asylum. Those already displaced could be forced to move again. Failure to close these funding gaps risks causing dire protection consequences, and rising social and political instability, deteriorating security, and overburdened state systems.

It would be a tragic irony if UNHCR – the world’s refugee organization – were to find itself facing these impossible choices during a year in which global solidarity for the millions of forcibly displaced, including within and from Ukraine, has soared. This cruel dilemma must be averted – for the sake of displaced Ukrainians and the rest of the more than 100 million women, men and children who have also fled persecution, discrimination, war and violence around the world.

And it can be averted. UNHCR can continue to play a critical role in addressing and ameliorating humanitarian crises – but to do so it needs significant help, and urgently.