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Amid Middle East crisis, ‘brutal and far-reaching’ war continues in Ukraine

Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of the Coordination Division at the UN relief wing OCHA, addressed ambassadors, highlighting the urgent need for humanitarian support with the winter freeze approaching, and access to essential services an increasing challenge.

He outlined efforts by relief workers to provide support to communities on the frontline and in hard-to-reach areas, including ensuring sufficient supplies of water and heat.

“The aim is to ensure that every civilian has access to somewhere both safe and warm during the winter ahead,” he said.

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Access challenges

However, lack of humanitarian access to the parts of the Donetsk, Kherson, Luhansk and Zaporizhzhia regions under temporary Russian military control are among the “most significant” challenges.

“The consequences of not delivering assistance to the estimated four million people in need in these areas are dire, particularly with the winter months soon upon us,” the OCHA official said, emphasizing the legal obligation on all parties to allow and facilitate rapid and unimpeded delivery of aid.

“It is vital that we be able to alleviate the human suffering caused by this war, regardless of where it is in Ukraine,” he said.

Devastating toll

Mr. Rajasingham said latest verified information suggested more than 9,900 civilians have been killed since the start of the invasion in February last year.

As these are only the figures the UN human rights office (OHCHR) has so far formally verified, “the actual toll is certainly higher,” he said.

He cited “significant damage” to critical civilian infrastructure, including electricity, heating, water and telecommunication facilities, as well as attacks against health facilities and personnel.

Humanitarian organizations have not been spared, he added, noting that so far in 2023, 14 aid workers have been killed.

A wide view of the UN Security Council chambers as members meet on the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.
UN Photo/Loey Felipe

A wide view of the UN Security Council chambers as members meet on the maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine.

Grain exports

The OCHA director note continued strikes on port infrastructure on the Black Sea and the Danube River.

Ukraine has nonetheless reported a growing number of vessels entering and departing from its Black Sea ports via a temporary corridor announced in August, following Russia’s withdrawal from the UN-brokered Black Sea Initiative, he said.

“As we have said in this chamber many times before, at a time of staggering levels of hunger around the world, it is imperative that all sources of food supplies are safely and sustainably connected to global supply chains,” Mr. Rajasingham stressed.

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