A senior United Nations humanitarian official in Ukraine today called on the Government to keep checkpoints open in conflict-affected areas in the country's east to prevent hardship for thousands of mostly elderly people seeking access to medicines, and food and other items.
“Closure of checkpoints has an immediate impact on people's lives, directly increasing hardship and humanitarian need,” UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Neal Walker said of the post along the contact line between Government- and non-Government-controlled areas.
“If hostilities increase, civilians may be trapped in unsafe areas, at the mercy of violence, mines and unexploded munitions. We urge Government to keep checkpoints open.”
Humanitarian organizations are concerned about thousands of civilians facing difficulties every day in crossing the 'contact line.' Mostly elderly and vulnerable, they queue for hours in the cold to access medicines and food, receive their savings and pensions, and see their relatives.
Restrictions are also placed on people living in areas under Government control close to the frontline. Closure, even if temporary, of one or more checkpoints will have severe consequences for these people and Government's decision to close Zaytseve checkpoint in the Donetsk region, starting today, and possibly other crossing points, is of serious concern.
International humanitarian law stipulates that if a certain transport corridor is closed, all alternative options need to be explored and new safe corridors established to ensure civilians can move freely, especially from areas of heightened hostilities.
“We call on all parties to stop fighting, to adhere to International Humanitarian Law and to ensure protection of civilian population against dangers arising from military operations,” said Barbara Manzi, Head of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Ukraine.
“Freedom of movement of civilians is critical as is access of humanitarian workers to people in need,” she added.