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Ukraine Recovery Conference: UN sounds alarm over humanitarian funding

Children in Borodianka, Ukraine, study under lamplight in a shelter.
© UNICEF/Aleksey Filippov
Children in Borodianka, Ukraine, study under lamplight in a shelter.

Ukraine Recovery Conference: UN sounds alarm over humanitarian funding


The UN is becoming increasingly concerned over falling levels of humanitarian funding for civilians across war-torn Ukraine, the head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) told delegates to the Ukraine Recovery Conference in Berlin on Wednesday.

Speaking on behalf of Secretary-General António Guterres, UNDP Administrator Achim Steiner said the UN and partners were continuing to deliver “critical humanitarian assistance”, focusing on communities on the frontlines, but there is “growing concern about the decrease in humanitarian funding amidst the significant scale of need.”

Infrastructure, including homes, hospitals, energy and water systems, continue to be hit as Russia continues its offensive and “support is needed now more than ever”, Mr. Steiner added.

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There are 24 different UN entities and around 3,000 personnel working alongside State and local authorities to meet immediate needs but also “pave the way to recovery, reconstruction and development”.

Investing billions

So far, the UN has put in place $1.1 billion in recovery and development spending through the end of 2023 and expects to invest a further $1 billion by the end of this year.

These focus on four key areas being managed by the UN Resident Coordinator: support for businesses and entrepreneurs, investing in human development, prioritizing a “comprehensive model of recovery planning”, and continuing to respond to Government requests for technical assistance.

The UNDP chief stressed that the only sustainable solution to the war remains a just, lasting and comprehensive peace, anchored in the principles of the UN Charter and international law. 

Bolstering education crucial

The Regional Director for the UN children’s agency UNICEF, Regina De Dominicis, said in a statement to the conference that the country’s recovery was dependent on educating children free from the scourge of war.

The war in Ukraine is destroying the country’s greatest resource – its people. Without an increase in investment and sustained funding, children and young people will not be able to access school and training opportunities – critical for the recovery of children, families and their communities,” she said.

COVID-19 had already disrupted schooling prior to Russia’s invasion of February 2022. Around four million Ukrainian children continue to have their education disrupted, with approximately 600,000 unable to access in-person school at all.

“Latest available data from 2022 show that children in Ukraine are around two years behind in reading, a year behind in maths, and half a year behind in science. With the persistence of hostilities since, that gap has only widened,” the UNICEF official reported.

Action towards ‘green recovery’

The UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), economic cooperation and development body OECD and UN Environment Programme (UNEP), announced on Wednesday the creation of a Platform for Action on the Green Recovery of Ukraine, to assist the country’s transition towards a low-carbon economy in line with international norms overseen by the UN.

The development comes ahead of another high-level conference on Ukraine, this time in Switzerland over the coming weekend.

Some 90 countries and organizations are due to attend the Burgenstock conference; Russia is expected to take part in sustainable peace discussions at a later date, according to the Swiss authorities.

Meanwhile on the frontline, the UN and partners continue helping authorities evacuate thousands of people from frontline villages in the country’s northeast this week.

In an update on Tuesday, the UN refugee agency, UNHCR, said that most of the evacuees are “already highly vulnerable” and could not have fled on their own earlier.

They included mainly older people and those with low mobility or disabilities “who left their homes with only a few belongings”, the UN agency said.

Kharkiv in the crosshairs

In the nearby city of Kharkiv, more than one in 10 people have now lost their homes, amid renewed Russian shelling.

In an update on the massive reconstruction needs of the city in Ukraine’s northeast, the UNECE cited reports that 150,000 of the 1.3 million people there are without housing.

The commission noted data from the local authorities showing that since the beginning of the full-scale Russian invasion in February 2022, approximately 9,000 houses have been destroyed, along with 110 nurseries and half the city’s schools.

In addition, all transformer substations on the power grid have been put out of action in Kharkiv, along with 88 medical centres and 185 other public buildings, UNECE said.