Ukraine

Ukraine: Thousands of civilians caught in Severodonetsk crossfire in dire need of aid

Statement by Jan Egeland, Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council:

“I am horrified to see Severodonetsk, the thriving city where we had our operational headquarters, become the epicentre of yet another chapter of the brutal war in Ukraine. We fear that up to 12,000 civilians remain caught in crossfire in the city, without sufficient access to water, food, medicine or electricity. The near-constant bombardment is forcing civilians to seek refuge in bomb shelters and basements, with only few precious opportunities for those trying to escape.

“Working with local partners, we have provided thousands of monthly food and hygiene parcels to civilians remaining in Severodonetsk and the wider Luhansk region in the past week. But now the intensified fighting makes aid delivery impossible.

“We cannot save lives under the hail of grenades.

“We call on parties to the conflict to immediately allow all humanitarian organisations to access Severodonetsk with lifesaving assistance and to enable safe evacuations of civilians who wish to leave the city.

“I visited Severodonetsk just weeks before the escalation of the war in February. Back then, I witnessed positive changes in the area, which our team and partners had worked tirelessly to achieve since 2014. We were rebuilding villages and helping the displaced families to start over. This progress now lies in ruins. The elderly pensioners I met in cut-off villages were devastated by the past eight years of insecurity and shelling. It is unimaginable that they have to endure this nightmare of modern warfare all over again.

“Almost one hundred days since the war in Ukraine escalated, we have seen bombs destroy critical infrastructure across the country and reduce entire cities like Severodonetsk to rubble. More than 14 million men, women and children are displaced within Ukraine or sheltering in other countries with no idea when they will be able to safely return to their homes.”

Facts and figures:

NRC has been operational in Ukraine since 2014, serving people affected by conflict in Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

NRC Ukraine had 84 national and three international staff members at the end of 2021. Before February 2022, most of NRC Ukraine’s staff were based in Severodonetsk.

About 800,000 people were displaced by the conflict in eastern Ukraine in 2014, while thousands of vulnerable pensioners remained in remote villages near the frontline in Donbas with minimal access to essential services.

NRC reopened its Ukraine Country Office in Kyiv in May 2022. Since the war escalated, NRC has also opened two field offices in Dnipro and Ternopil and a larger area office in Lviv. Together with our local partners, we delivered 3,300 monthly food parcels in the Luhansk region, including Severodonetsk, in April 2022. In May 2022, we delivered 480 hygiene kits together with 480 monthly food parcels in the Luhansk region, including Severodonetsk. In western Ukraine, NRC is also scaling up, focusing on supporting internally displaced people through legal aid, shelter materials, cash assistance and support provided to communal shelters. In early 2022, NRC launched its country programmes in Poland, Romania and Moldova to support refugees seeking safety in the neighbouring countries. Notes for editors:

Photos with captions from Severodonetsk can be downloaded and freely distributed from here. NRC has spokespeople in Ukraine and Norway available for interviews. For more information, please contact:

Christian Jepsen, Regional Communications and Media Adviser, christian.jepsen@nrc.no, WhatsApp: +254 706 248 391; Norwegian Refugee Council's global media hotline: media@nrc.no, +47 905 623 29.