Assistant Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Deputy Emergency Relief Coordinator, Ursula Mueller, Statement to the Security Council on the Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine - New York, 29 May 2018
Thank you so much for the opportunity to brief the Security Council on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine.
After four years, millions of civilians – men, women and children – continue to bear the brunt of the conflict in eastern Ukraine, which has become yet another protracted crisis. Over 2,700 civilians have been killed and up to 9,000 injured since the outbreak of hostilities. The conflict-affected area is one of the most mine-contaminated in the world. Last year, landmines maimed or killed 238 civilians.
The Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) documents one million crossings per month of the 457-kilometre contact line that divides eastern Ukraine. Civilians risk shelling, sniper-fire and landmines as they make the arduous journey through the five official checkpoints where processing times can range from hours to days.
Last year I travelled across the contact line where I spoke to people waiting in long lines at one of the checkpoints. Many of them were elderly. Ukraine has the highest proportion of elderly people affected by conflict in the world. They must cross the contact line every 60 days to register in the government-controlled area as internally displaced persons (IDPs). It is the only way they can access their meagre pensions of US$30 to US$60 per month.
I commend the Government of Ukraine for adopting a national IDP Plan to address the situation of 1.5 million registered IDPs. The success of this Plan requires a whole-of-government approach and sufficient allocation of resources.
Last week before the Security Council, the Secretary-General and 80 Member States called for enhanced protection of civilians through adherence to the rules of war. These rules must be respected by all parties to the conflict in Ukraine. Despite repeated appeals, water treatment workers and facilities have been targeted on 34 occasions in 2018. The Donetsk Filtration Station, which supplies water to over 345,000 people, has come under fire eight times in the last 40 days, with five workers injured last month.
Over 600,000 people are regularly exposed to hostilities along the contact line. Families live in damp basements, and more than 100,000 children attend schools with windows lined with sand bags. More than 40,000 homes have been destroyed or damaged.
Only 10 days ago, two schools in the Donetsk region were shelled when hundreds of children were attending classes. Wars have limits. The parties to the conflict must take all feasible precautions to avoid, and minimize, civilian harm.
In 2018, humanitarians aim to reach 2.3 million people with vital assistance and protection services. However, we face immense access and funding challenges. We have only received 13 per cent of the $187 million that we have appealed for in the Humanitarian Response Plan. This has forced agencies, such as the World Food Programme to withdraw from Ukraine, even though 1.2 million people are food insecure.
The health situation is also severe. Millions of people have limited access to health care. Measles and hepatitis outbreaks are frequent. HIV/AIDS prevalence among pregnant women is unacceptably high. Multi-drug resistant tuberculosis is often undetected or untreated. It is essential for patients to be able to access appropriate treatment.
After significant effort, I am pleased to advise that the United Nations has recently achieved more humanitarian access in the non-government controlled area. We hope that this will facilitate a scale up of delivery of critically needed impartial, independent and neutral humanitarian aid to millions of people in need. I appeal for urgent funding to support these efforts.
This conflict has stretched millions of Ukrainians to breaking point. Many displaced people have exhausted their savings and means of survival. They face, in addition to the daily hostilities, risks such as trafficking, transactional sex, drug use and alcoholism.
After four years, eastern Ukraine is now a protracted protection crisis requiring an approach that addresses undeniable humanitarian needs whilst simultaneously reinforcing resilience.
Humanitarian and development actors are therefore seeking to apply a New Way of Working.
The practical approach taken in Ukraine is already generating dividends.
Before I conclude, I once again call on all parties to the conflict in Ukraine to respect international human rights and humanitarian law. They must take constant care to spare civilians and critical civilian infrastructure.
Finally, I urge the world to stand in solidarity with the millions of Ukrainians who urgently need our support. I also urge political leaders to make every effort to end the conflict. As I was constantly told by the Ukrainian men and women I met during my October visit last year, peace remains the only true solution to their dire humanitarian situation.