Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes

Ten million people across Ukraine have lost their homes and have been forced to flee since the escalation of the war with Russia more than two years ago. That stark figure was presented to the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) in a briefing focused on the dire humanitarian and human rights situation in the war-torn country, including eastern regions illegally annexed by Russia.

The Council heard, that like the war in Gaza, women and children continue to be disproportionately impacted while the systematic targeting of Ukraine’s energy infrastructure is deepening the humanitarian crisis.

The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has recorded over 10 800 civilian deaths, including 600 children and injuries to more than 20 000 civilians since Russia’s invasion in February 2022. The Council heard that Ukraine was currently enduring some of the worst attacks since the start of the war.

“Not a day passes without air strikes shattering the lives of yet more families across the country. In Kharkiv, Kherson, Kyiv, Lviv, Mykolaiv, Odesa, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Dnipro, wave after massive wave of attacks continue to kill and injure civilians and cause widespread damage and destruction to critical civilian infrastructure. No region of Ukraine has been spared by this war. Fierce ongoing hostilities in front-line and border communities, especially in Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson and Sumy regions, are driving even greater displacement of civilians. Women and children continue to be disproportionately impacted, like many other crises around the world,” says Director of Operations and Advocacy in the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Edem Worsunu.

A population the size of both the greater Johannesburg and Cape Town Metros have been displaced by this war, over 6 million now living as refugees as this conflict, like all wars, takes a severe toll on civilians, including now in the Russian Federation.

“Attacks on civilians and on civilian infrastructure are prohibited under international law. They must cease immediately, and we continue to condemn them, where they occur. The intensifying attacks come with a heavy toll on Ukraine’s critical civilian infrastructure. Since March, the large-scale coordinated attacks on critical infrastructure destroyed or damaged more than two dozen energy facilities throughout the country, including the Dnipro Hydroelectric Power Plant. These attacks have disrupted access to electricity for millions of Ukrainians in large cities and in rural areas. Water supply was also disrupted in some locations. We are concerned about the humanitarian consequences, given reports that the disruptions may last for many months due to the extent of the widespread damage,” says UN Assistant Secretary General for Political and Peace Operations, Miroslav Jenca.

While recent attacks on Ukraine’s Russian occupied Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, Europe’s largest and the first time such attacks have taken place since November 2022, continue to pose a serious nuclear threat in the region.

Worsunu explains, “The pattern of civilian harm in this conflict as a whole continues to be of grave concern. And it raises serious doubts about compliance with IHL (International Humanitarian Law). I want to recall that IHL requires parties to take constant care to spare all civilians and civilian objects throughout military operations. This includes protecting humanitarian personnel and assets, as well as infrastructure essential for civilians’ survival. IHL also requires the parties to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for all civilians in need. Obstructions that leave the civilian population without the essential basic services to survive run contrary to this obligation.”

More than 14.6 million people, about 40% of Ukraine’s population, require some form of humanitarian assistance, 56% of that number women and children.

The UN Secretariat officials further warned that attacks on the port city of Odesa continue to be of concerns due to their impact on global food insecurity.

They told the Council that Ukraine’s Black Sea ports were an essential component of the global supply chains for grain and other key agricultural commodities and that attacks on these ports threaten to undo the progress in stabilising grain markets and bringing global food prices down.

Source: eNCA

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