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UN refugee chief sees trend toward ‘getting used to Ukrainian suffering’

United Nations refugee chief Filippo Grandi reminded the international community that while other conflicts have taken the attention away from Ukraine and its suffering, the country is still in devastation amid it’s war with Russia.

“I think the big difference from last year to this year is that this year, this is not news anymore in the world,” he told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday. “There is somehow a trend towards getting used to Ukrainian suffering.”

Grandi, who heads the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) agency, warned that Ukraine’s civilians cannot be forgotten, pointing to destroyed health facilities and annihilated houses — all pilling up — as Russia’s invasion is slowly approaching the two-year mark.

UNHCR has pleaded for $4.2 billion in assistance to Ukraine, a lower figure than last year. If approved, the aid would go toward assisting people who have been displaced since the invasion started in February 2022.

The agency estimates that at least 10 million people have been displaced amid the conflict. Around 6.3 million are classified as refugees, while 3.7 million have been internally displaced.

“We made that choice because we are aware that there are so many crises in the world that that’s a factor and therefore we really focused on the priority needs,” Grandi said.

He also expressed concern that delivering humanitarian aid has stalled due to political infighting. He urged both the European Union and the U.S. to pass legislation, saying it shouldn’t be a “hostage of politics.”

In Congress, the passage of bipartisan supplemental aid, which would include $61 billion allocated for Ukraine, has halted amid the current negotiations over the U.S.-Mexico border. As recently as Monday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said negotiators have yet to come to terms on the border deal, which is necessary to pass more Ukraine aid, a priority for President Biden.

EU nations also failed to pass a four-year, $52 billion package for Ukraine. The assistance was vetoed by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

Grandi said that if the packages are stuck, he is worried that humanitarian assistance won’t be delivered, which in turn will have “an immediate impact here.”

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