Mr. President [US Presidency],
As this Council received an in-depth humanitarian briefing by Under-Secretary-General Griffiths last Thursday, I will keep today’s remarks brief.
And I know Omar, the Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF, will, of course, provide details on the impact this war is having on children.
Let me update you with the latest on the United Nations joint efforts to negotiate more humanitarian pauses to allow safe passage for civilians trapped by the fighting.
On Monday, we – together with the International Committee of the Red Cross – were able to evacuate another 174 civilians from the Azovstal steel plant and other parts of Mariupol.
This was the third operation in the past week out of Mariupol, bringing the total number of civilians evacuated from the steel plant, Mariupol and neighbouring towns to over 600.
A truly monumental feat amid the shelling and destruction ongoing in the east.
This is a glimmer of hope.
Yet, as we have seen these past couple of days, this war continues on its destructive path.
The intense fighting is causing immense human suffering. Civilians – particularly women and children – are paying the heaviest price.
Recent reports of the shelling of a school in Bilohorivka in Luhansk oblast – where women and children were seeking shelter from the fighting – are abominable, and the human toll must be condemned.
Hostilities in populated areas are extremely destructive.
The use of wide-area explosive weapons in these areas comes with a very high risk of indiscriminate effects and must be avoided.
The presence of landmine and unexploded ordnance also significantly impacts humanitarian response and access.
Even before this war, eastern Ukraine was one of the most mine-contaminated regions in the world.
Support for mine action is crucial. Demining is a priority to open up humanitarian space.
Under international humanitarian law, the parties must respect all civilians, as well as civilian homes, schools, hospitals and other essential infrastructure. They must take constant care to spare them.
This includes allowing civilians to leave areas of hostilities voluntarily and safely. It includes having special consideration for the needs of people facing specific risks, such as women, children, the elderly and people with disabilities.
I also urge parties to the conflict to remove any barriers to the movement of humanitarian staff to ensure the continued delivery of life-saving assistance across Ukraine.
Let me briefly update you on the latest figures.
Almost 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, of whom 8 million are internally displaced.
227 partners – the majority national NGOs – have provided humanitarian assistance to over 5.4 million people, many of those in the east. This scale-up is unprecedented.
As you are aware, in addition to the evacuations from the Azovstal plant and Mariupol, five inter-agency convoys – including essential medical supplies, water, food rations, non-food items, water repair systems and generators – have provided a lifeline to civilians encircled by fighting.
This is by no means enough.
Both parties have been notified of these convoys. I urge them to continue their facilitation efforts so we can reach many more civilians.
This is also required of them under international humanitarian law.
We must urgently take our efforts to scale.
Our recent efforts to evacuate civilians in the east has shown us that there is good will and common ground for us to build on between the parties.
As requested by the Secretary-General, Martin is exploring ways to bring the parties together to discuss humanitarian issues, including safe passage for civilians and the movement of humanitarian convoys.
Earlier this week, Martin was warmly received in Ankara by the Minister of Foreign Affairs, His Excellency Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, and Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalin. Their discussions focused on Turkish support to the UN’s efforts towards progress on pressing humanitarian concerns in Ukraine.
We must explore all options to reach more people where needs are the greatest.
We remain firmly committed to leaving no stone unturned. To find measures – from local pauses to wider ceasefires – to save lives.
The world expects this of us. The people of Ukraine deserve this.
Thank you, Mr. President.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.