Daily attacks reportedly by Russian forces continue to batter Ukrainian cities. Many are reportedly indiscriminate, resulting in civilian casualties and damage to civilian infrastructure.
Between 24 February and 15 March, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights recorded 2,149 civilian casualties. The total consists of 816 people killed and 1,333 injured. The actual number is likely to be much higher, unfortunately.
Most of these casualties were caused by the use in populated areas of explosive weapons with a wide impact area. Hundreds of residential buildings have been damaged or destroyed, as have hospitals and schools.
A number of UN senior officials briefed Member States on the humanitarian situation in Ukraine and neighbouring countries. The meeting was chaired by Martin Griffiths, the UN’s Humanitarian Coordinator.
The devastation and suffering in Mariupol and Kharkiv raise grave fears about the fate of millions of residents of Kyiv and other cities facing intensifying attacks. International humanitarian law is crystal clear. Civilians are entitled to protection against the dangers arising from military operations. Direct attacks on civilians are prohibited. Yet, the magnitude of civilian casualties and the destruction of civilian infrastructure in Ukraine cannot be denied. This demands a thorough investigation and accountability.
Speaking from Ukraine, the UN Crisis Coordinator Amin Awad warned that this war has created unprecedented humanitarian challenges that continue to rise. He said that we, along with our humanitarian partners, are on the ground and we are in 17 locations operating out of 10 hubs. However, Mr. Awad stressed that we need to do more and we need safe humanitarian access.
From Lviv, Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator for the UN in Ukraine, Osnat Lubrani, said that we are working on a joint response to integrate the long-term development needs with the immediate humanitarian response. She noted that water and sanitation have either been partially or totally destroyed in Ukraine, with dramatic and immediate and long-term socioeconomic impacts.
And just a few more details for you on what is happening on the ground. We continue to be extremely concerned that many people – including the most vulnerable groups such as older people and people with disabilities – are trapped in areas of escalating conflict. With essential services disrupted, they are unable to meet their basic needs for food, water, and medicines.
The World Food Programme for its part has been warning that the country’s food supply chain is falling apart: trucks and trains are being destroyed, airports bombed, many bridges have fallen, supermarkets and warehouses have been emptied. WFP said that is has mobilized food supplies for 3 million people inside Ukraine for one month. In recent days, the World Food Programme has delivered 26 metric tons of high-energy biscuits in the capital Kyiv, targeting 30,000 people.
In Kharkiv, in north-eastern Ukraine, WFP distributed more than 53 metric tons of bread to 212,400 crisis-affected people. The distribution of value vouchers continues for 2,000 displaced people in Lviv. For its part, the International Organization for Migration said its newly established hotline has received more than 10,000 calls over the last 10 days, including from people seeking specialized counselling.
The UN refugee agency said that almost 3.3 million people, most of them women and children, have crossed international borders out of Ukraine.
For its part, the UN Children’s Fund said that as of yesterday 17 March, it had dispatched 85 trucks carrying 858 tons of emergency supplies to support children and families in war-torn Ukraine and neighbouring countries. Out of this total, 78 trucks carrying more than 780 tons were sent to Ukraine while the remaining 7 trucks were sent to nearby countries.
A total of 34 trucks have already arrived in Ukraine, with more deliveries expected in the coming days. In Moscow, our humanitarian colleagues have strengthened the engagement with the Russian Ministry of Defense. We are making progress with both the Russian Federation and Ukraine to allow for regular discussion on specific humanitarian issues, including safe passage and supply routes for humanitarian cargo. We, along with international and local non-governmental organizations, are pushing east towards areas of greater needs. I do hope to have a bit more of an update for you on that front later today.