Humanitarian aid to Ukraine is falling back even as the country's needs rise more than two years after it was invaded by neighbouring Russia, the UN refugee agency UNHCR warned Monday.

Karolina Lindholm Billing, the UN agency's representative in Ukraine, warned the situation was degenerating, with some four million people already displaced including "some very, very vulnerable people".

There are "much less resources for humanitarian assistance, because the humanitarian needs with these developments are actually growing," Lindholm Billing said.

"It is the most vulnerable (that) will bear the brunt of that reduced funding and support."

In an interview with AFP in Geneva, she said that international attention on Ukraine had decreased over time.


The UN's 2024 humanitarian plan for Ukraine amounts to $3.1 billion this year, including $599 million for the UNHCR.

But both the global response plan and the UNHCR appeal were only around 15 percent funded in the first quarter of the year -- while the same funding reached around 30 percent during the same period last year, said Lindholm Billing.

As the war drags on to become what she termed an "ultra marathon," she added that "the cash assistance, the humanitarian in kind aid, the help with accommodation, house repairs, the psychosocial support" is now "less frequent and less predictable".

She highlighted the fallout from the ongoing Russian offensive around the eastern Kharkiv region, with countless civilians often left without basics such as electricity and water supplies.

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Russian troops since May 10 have carried out a ground assault in the northeastern region, where they have achieved their largest territorial gains in the last 18 months.

Lindholm Billing said, as of Sunday, some 10,300 people had been evacuated in border areas "and evacuations still continue".

And she noted that "those who still live in these frontline settlements are usually elderly".

- 'Really heartbreaking' -

She said many were battling trauma and shock, carrying scant personal belongings in plastic bags as they left the area in tears.


"Elderly couples who had been living their lives in peace... are now uprooted and live in a collective centre somewhere in Ukraine without knowing if they will ever be able to go back home or just struggling to build a new life from scratch in a new location," added Lindholm Billing.

"They've left everything behind, and it's really heartbreaking."

She stressed that countless vulnerable people just "don't have the resources or the capacity to just set up a new life somewhere here in the centre of the country."

The UN representative also warned that if the numbers of displaced went on rising then receiving and helping them would pose a huge logistical challenge.

"But of course, if 10,000 is multiplied to become a million or more it obviously puts an enormous strain on the system."

As the conflict drags on, and Russia expands its offensive, "I think that the big worry (is) that Ukrainians have no choice but to keep on running," she concluded, warning that the international community "cannot stop".

"That's not fair."

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