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Ukraine: War intensifies and so do the needs, says UN relief official

A 13-year-old girl walks past buildings damaged by the shelling in Irpin, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Filippov
A 13-year-old girl walks past buildings damaged by the shelling in Irpin, Ukraine.

Ukraine: War intensifies and so do the needs, says UN relief official

Humanitarian Aid

The ongoing attacks on civilian infrastructure in Ukraine are resulting in a surge in humanitarian needs, the top UN humanitarian official for the country said on Monday, urging increased funding to ensure assistance for those in need.

Denise Brown, UN Humanitarian Coordinator for Ukraine, spoke remotely at a press briefing at UN Headquarters, in New York, and said that funds are needed particularly to prepare for the approaching winter.

“It is almost August, and it gets cold very early in Ukraine,” she said.

She  said that humanitarians are preparing for winterization, which involves distributing quilts, fuels, stoves, and thermal insulation – to houses damaged last winter.

“There is additional damage on top of what we had to deal [with since then],” she added, referring to increased needs resulting from the destruction of the Kakhovka dam and attacks on major cities.

Attacks on civilian infrastructure in Odesa

Ms. Brown spoke of her visit to Odesa, where several locations were hit in aerial strikes last week.

“Odesa is a very important hub for the UN and the humanitarian community,” she said, noting that it is the staging area for relief supplies to flow to the locations in need.

She went to the Transfiguration Cathedral, a centuries-old monument listed under UN cultural agency (UNESCO)’s World Heritage List, that sustained severe damage in an attack on 23 July.

The cathedral has a bunker and when air-raid sirens went off, many people from the neighbourhood took shelter there “not realizing that the cathedral was going to be hit,” said Ms. Brown.

The UN official also visited Odesa port, which was damaged in a strike. The attack took place after Russia terminated its engagement with the Black Sea Initiative, which together with a parallel accord between the UN and Russia, were vital to shore up food supplies globally.

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“The port is a civilian infrastructure, that is the important point. Whether it is the cathedral or the port, this is civilian infrastructure used for civilians and civilian purposes,” she said

Damaged homes in Mykolaiv

Ms. Brown also spoke of damage to civilian homes and apartments in Mykolaiv, some of which were so badly damaged that they will have to be completely pulled down.

“What I saw in Mykolaiv and what I saw in Odesa last week, with my own eyes, is being repeated across many big cities in Ukraine. This morning again an apartment building was hit, people have been killed and are under rubble,” she said, recalling her statement earlier in the day.

Humanitarian plan only 30 per cent funded

Earlier this year, the UN launched the $3.9 billion Humanitarian Response Plan for 2023. The Plan targets 11.1 million people for assistance.

However as of end-July, it has raised only about 30 per cent of its intended total.

The needs continue to rise, Ms. Brown said, citing the “totally unexpected” destruction of the Kakhovka dam that led to additional needs.

“Humanitarian situation hasn’t changed, the war continues, and it intensifies, and so do the needs. The only way to change this is for the war to stop,” she concluded.