Aid agencies step up relief efforts in Ukraine as crisis worsens


Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine seven weeks ago, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimated that six million people are now in need of food and cash assistance as the agency continues to mobilise inside the country in an effort to help the most vulnerable.

UN aid agencies on Tuesday said they have provided relief to previously inaccessible areas such as Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel and Borodianka.

The announcement comes after renewed ceasefire call from Secretary-General António Guterres, whose spokesperson said on Monday that he was “deeply concerned by the continuing attacks on Ukrainian cities across the country…which are resulting in numerous civilian casualties and destruction in residential areas.”

Women, children and disabled people have also continued to flee all parts of Ukraine, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said, adding that it was key for borders to remain open to those seeking shelter.

“The latest numbers we have are [that]about 4.9 million refugees are fleeing Ukraine since 24 February,” spokesperson Shabia Mantoo told journalists in Geneva.

“We are watching with concern to see what will happen, but it’s quite alarming that just in the space of a few weeks we are approaching five million refugees from Ukraine, which we’ve said right at the start, with the pace of these movements, this is the fastest-growing and one of the largest refugee crises we are seeing in in Europe since the Second World War and this is what it really continues to look like.”

Nationwide, WFP has mobilized more than 60,000 metric tons of food, enough to support two million people for two months.

Since 24 February, 1.7 million people in Ukraine have been reached, through in-kind food assistance to families in encircled and conflict-affected areas, and US$3.6 million in cash-based transfers have been activated in areas where markets are functioning.

In total, the UN agency has delivered 113 tonnes of food to vulnerable families in the encircled cities of Kharkiv, Sumy and Severodonetsk through four UN interagency humanitarian convoys, enough for 20,000 people for 10 days.

As efforts continue to secure agreements for humanitarian access to all parts of Ukraine, the World Health Organization (WHO) explained that it was doing its utmost to pre-position aid and deliver lifesaving supplies and equipment to strategic areas.

“WHO has now delivered 218 metric tonnes of emergency and medical supplies to Ukraine…132 metric tonnes have reached their intended destinations in the east and north of the country,” said the agency’s spokesperson, Bhanu Bhatnagar, speaking from Lviv in west Ukraine, which was shelled on Monday.

Attacks on health care in Ukraine have also continued to threaten the lives of patients and professionals, the WHO spokesperson said, with a total of 137 confirmed attacks since 24 February.

Another of the UN agency’s major concerns was that 20% of Ukraine’s planted areas would not be harvested in July, and that the spring planting area may be about one-third smaller than usual.

Beyond the war, the main challenge for Ukraine’s farmers is managing to export their harvest via the country’s southern ports which are now blocked or under attack. If they fail to do that, there will be no room to store this season’s harvest.

Outside Ukraine, rising food prices linked to the Russian invasion and other factors have forced WFP to spend US$70 million more per month to buy the same amount of food as last year. (Source: UN News)