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Ukraine: Lasting toll of war, ‘beyond measure’, Security Council hears

Briefing ambassadors at the Security Council, Miroslav Jenča, Assistant Secretary-General for Europe, said that like the previous year, the year 2023 has been devastating for the people of Ukraine.

The UN human rights office (OHCHR) has verified 10,065 civilians killed and a further 18,679 injured since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022. The actual figures, however, could be much higher. Over 10 million have been forced to flee their homes, including over 6.3 million who have sought refuge outside Ukraine.

Silence the guns

“All attacks against civilians and civilian infrastructure must stop immediately. They are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are simply unacceptable,” Mr. Jenča stressed.

The senior UN political and peacebuilding official also warned that the lasting toll of the devastating war is beyond measure.

“While we can attempt to count the numbers of those killed, injured and displaced, the full lasting toll of this devastating war on the civilian population is beyond measure,” he said.

The full lasting toll of this devastating war on the civilian population is beyond measure
– Miroslav Jenča

“In addition to the lives lost, families torn apart, and life-changing physical injuries, the impact of the war on the mental health of millions of Ukrainians will be felt for decades to come.”

Mr. Jenča also highlighted the impact on children, who often suffer the greatest trauma in any conflict, as well as on women and girls at heightened risk of sexual- and gender-based violence.

Nuclear plants at risk  

Mr. Jenča further noted the continuing risk to Ukraine’s nuclear power plants, stating that as long as the war continues, they would be vulnerable.

Citing reports explosions close to the plants, including the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant, he underscored “all nuclear sites must be able to operate safely and must be protected to avoid potentially catastrophic consequences.”

Winter freeze threatens survival

Also briefing the 15-member Security Council, Ramesh Rajasingham, Director of Coordination, at the UN humanitarian affairs office (OCHA), said that millions of civilians in Ukraine, including women and children, are staring at the prospect of yet another winter of severe hardship.

“Many people have been left without access to heat, electricity, and water, particularly in the east and south,” he said.

“Amid freezing temperatures, this damage is particularly threatening the survival of the most vulnerable – among them the elderly and those with disabilities,” he added.

Humanitarian efforts

Informing ambassadors of humanitarians’ efforts to deliver aid across the country, Mr. Rajasingham said that last week, the 100th interagency convoy for 2023 reached Chasiv Yar, in Donetsk Oblast, eastern Ukraine.

“Throughout the year, these convoys have provided critical assistance to almost 400,000 people in hard-hit frontline communities across oblasts from Kharkiv, to Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro, Kherson, and Sumy,” he said.

He also note that the $3.9 billion Ukraine Humanitarian Response Plan is underfunded by $1.6 billion.

Find peace

Concluding his briefing, Mr. Rajasingham said that while Ukraine remains under attack and in a state of conflict, the conditions causing the devastation, and the ripple effects around the world, will persist.

“As we come to the end of 2023 and enter 2024, we must redouble our efforts to prevent further escalation in Ukraine,” he urged.

Video: Maintenance of peace and security of Ukraine – Security Council, 9494th meeting

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