The Refugee Crisis
“Hell on Earth. Hell is when you don’t know if you will be able to take your next breath. Hell is when everything is burning, not just the buildings but the ground.”
The Ukrainian crisis has now evolved into a three-front war that simultaneously includes the military battles inside Ukraine, a growing refugee crisis in neighboring countries, and the crippling impact of Western sanctions on the Russian economy. Commentary 27 (March 26) focused on the military situation. Today’s commentary will focus on the growing humanitarian crisis.
The Statistical Story
Putin’s brutal invasion is inflicting terrible damage. Indiscriminate airstrikes, long-range missiles, and artillery shells are causing Europe’s largest refugee crisis since World War II. Nearly 4 million Ukrainians have been forced to leave their homeland. Another 6 million people have been displaced. Altogether, almost one-fourth of Ukraine’s total population has been forced to move.
The Human Faces
Nearly half of all the children in Ukraine have been forced to flee their homes. Heartbreaking pictures of terrified Ukrainian children have brought the outside world face to face with the alarming humanitarian crisis.
The heart-wrenching picture on the left captures a crying four-year-old boy fleeing to Poland. Alone and afraid, he is carrying a rucksack on his back and a cuddly toy in a carrier bag. The picture on the right captures the resilient spirt of a young Ukrainian girl who is now safe in Warsaw.
The images of fear and resilience have sparked an outpouring of compassion and help. An army of volunteers is greeting refugees and providing them with blankets, toothbrushes, stuffed animals, and even cellphone SIM cards. Generous citizens in Poland and across Europe have opened their homes to help refugees. But the overwhelming wave of desperate people is placing a strain on relief agencies and workers. One UN official summarized the situation when he reported, “We are building the bridge as we’re walking across it.”
The refugee crisis will have profound but uncertain consequences. For now, it is strengthening NATO’s resolve to help Ukraine fight the Russian invaders. But New York Times columnist Tom Friedman warns that the humanitarian crisis is part of Putin’s overall strategy to fracture the NATO alliance by “creating so many refugees – millions and millions – that basically NATO allies will come to President Zelensky in Ukraine and say, look, we just can’t take any more. You’ve going to have to cut a deal with this guy.”
“Why? Why? Why?”
Putin’s ruthless grand strategy and NATO’s response are irrelevant to Ukraine’s distraught mothers. One sobbing mother cried out, “Why? Why? Why?” Medical workers looked on helplessly as she unwrapped a blanket around her lifeless child to kiss him one last time.
FOR DISCUSSION AND WRITING
1. List two consequences of the Ukrainian refugee crisis.
2. Do you think Tom Friedman’s pessimistic forecast will be accurate? Why or why not?
3. “Why? Why? Why?” – How would you answer this grief-stricken mother’s question?
FOR FURTHER INFORMATION
Today’s commentary drew upon information from articles in the Economist (“How the Ukrainian Crisis Will Change Europe”), the New York Times (“Refugee Crisis Will Test A European Economy Under Pressure”) and ABC Evening News with David Muir.
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