UNITED NATIONS: Over the past two months, Ukraine has seen “suffering, devastation, and destruction on a massive scale”, the UN Crisis Coordinator for the country said Thursday, echoing the world body’s chief’s words, “we must stop the bloodshed and destruction”.
“At least 15.7 million people in Ukraine are now in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection…over five million people fled Ukraine to seek safety in other countries and another 7.1 million have been internally displaced across the country,” said Assistant Secretary-General Amin Awad during a press conference in Lviv, west Ukraine.
“This represents more than 25 per cent of the entire population of Ukraine”.
Meanwhile, UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has received no response so far from leaders of Russia and Ukraine to his letters, which were sent on Tuesday, for separate meetings in a bid to end the devastating war.
“On the issue of the letters, I have nothing to report to you,” his spokesman, Stephane Dujarric, said in response to a question at the regular noon news briefing at UN Headquarters in New York.
Since the war started, civilian infrastructure has taken a huge hit with more than 136 health facilities and an average of 22 schools a day coming under attack. Moreover, damaged water systems have left six million people without regular access.
“The world is shocked by what is happening in Ukraine,” said Awad, calling “deeply disturbing” the treatment of war prisoners and that the fate of civilians in Mariupol remains unknown.
Meanwhile, people living in occupied Kherson are short on food and medicines; Mykolaiv has been without water for seven days; and the devastation of urban centres and civilian infrastructure across the oblasts – especially in Donetska, Luhanska, Khakvska, Kyivska and Chernivska – have disrupted critical services for millions, including water and health care.
The UN Crisis Coordinator described first-hand, his account of the devastation.
“I have met with people who had to carry the bodies of their family members and neighbours from the streets of Bucha and Irpin to be buried in gardens or mass graves. I cannot begin to imagine their suffering”.
He reminded that attacking noncombatants or civilian infrastructure is “a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” calling for it to stop and for civilians to be protected and allowed safe passage.
At the same time, humanitarians face tremendous challenges that often prevent them from delivering assistance to areas where people are in desperate need.
“I appeal for safe and unhindered access for humanitarian assistance,” said the UN official.
Awad also pointed out that some of the over 12 million people who have been displaced are now returning home.
“As United Nations, and together with our humanitarian and development partners, we must be ready to support their durable solution from the start”.
He underscored the Secretary-General’s call for a humanitarian pause and the need to “put aside divisions and focus on converging interests to end this senseless war”.
The Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, informed the media that the UN humanitarian office, OCHA, has released to aid organizations an additional $50 million on top of the $158 million already provided for life-saving operations.
This included nearly $98 million from the Ukraine Humanitarian Fund (UHF), the largest allotment since it was established in 2019, and $60 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF).
Amidst mounting allegations of rape, she said that part of the money would be directed to prevent any form of gender-based violence and to support survivors.
“Thanks to the timely support of our donors, these funds will allow us to reach millions of people – mainly in the most affected oblasts in the east of the country –with the support they need to survive and face probably one of the biggest challenges of their lives,” Ms. Lubrani said.
Nearly two months of intense and escalating hostilities in Ukraine continue to have horrific repercussions for civilians and caused a grave humanitarian crisis.
“Aid workers from local and international NGOs and UN agencies have worked day and night to scale up our response to assist more than 3.3 million people. This is alongside the incredible work done by volunteers across the country,” explained Ms. Lubrani, adding that just yesterday the UN managed to deliver nine trucks of relief items to the city of Chernihiv.
The Humanitarian Coordinator also gave examples of how over 145,000 people in non-Government-controlled areas of Luhanska oblast are receiving protection services, and those in transit areas of Lviv have received hygiene kits as they moved in search of safety, thanks to the UHF’s implementing partners.
Despite these critical efforts and invaluable assistance, much more is required to meet the growing needs of Ukrainians.
“It is remarkable how the humanitarian community here managed, in a few weeks, to expand from delivering assistance in two areas of eastern Ukraine to now operating across all 24 oblasts,” acknowledged Ms. Lubnrani.
“However, we are still not able or have been prevented from reaching areas where people are in dire need of assistance, including Mariupol and Kherson”.