People's Stories Peace

Conflicts push forcibly displaced over 100 million for first time
by Filippo Grandi
UN High Commissioner for Refugees, agencies
The number of people forced to flee conflict, violence, human rights violations and persecution has now crossed the staggering milestone of 100 million for the first time on record, propelled by the war in Ukraine and other deadly conflicts.
“One hundred million is a stark figure – sobering and alarming in equal measure. It’s a record that should never have been set,” said UN High Commissioner for Refugees, Filippo Grandi.
“This must serve as a wake-up call to resolve and prevent destructive conflicts, end persecution, and address the underlying causes that force innocent people to flee their homes.”
According to new data from UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, the number of forcibly displaced people worldwide rose towards 90 million by the end of 2021, propelled by new waves of violence or protracted conflict in countries including Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, Myanmar, Nigeria, Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
In addition, the war in Ukraine has displaced 8 million within the country this year, and more than 6 million refugee movements from Ukraine have been registered.
At over 1 per cent of the global population, the overall figure is equivalent to the 14th most populous country in the world. It includes refugees and asylum seekers as well as the 53.2 million people displaced inside their borders by conflict, according to a recent report from the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC).
“The international response to people fleeing war in Ukraine has been overwhelmingly positive,” Grandi added. “Compassion is alive and we need a similar mobilization for all crises around the world. But ultimately, humanitarian aid is a palliative, not a cure. To reverse this trend, the only answer is peace and stability so that innocent people are not forced to gamble between acute danger at home or precarious flight and exile.”
May 2022
Global Report on Internal Displacement 2022. (IDMC)
The number of people living in internal displacement around the world reached a record 59.1 million at the end of 2021, up from 55 million a year earlier.
The unprecedented figure is the result of new waves of violence and protracted conflict in countries ranging from Ethiopia and Afghanistan to Syria and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), according to the Internal Displacement Monitoring Centre (IDMC)'s annual global report.
“The situation today is phenomenally worse than even our record figure suggests, as it doesn’t include nearly eight million people forced to flee the war in Ukraine. We need a titanic shift in thinking from world leaders on how to prevent and resolve conflicts to end this soaring human suffering,” said the secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council, Jan Egeland.
Around 38 million internal displacements, or movements, were reported during 2021, the second highest annual figure in a decade after 2020's record-breaking year for disaster displacement.
Conflict and violence triggered 14.4 million movements, an increase of almost 50 per cent on the year before Sub-Saharan Africa was the most affected region, with more than five million displacements in Ethiopia alone, the highest figure ever for a single country. The DRC, Afghanistan and Myanmar also registered unprecedented numbers in 2021.
The Middle East and North Africa recorded its lowest in ten years as conflict in Syria, Libya and Iraq de-escalated, but the region's overall number of internally displaced people (IDPs) remained concerningly high by the end of the year.
"The trend toward long-term displacement will never be reversed unless safe and sustainable conditions are established for IDPs to return home, integrate locally or resettle elsewhere," said IDMC's Director, Alexandra Bilak.
"Peacebuilding and development initiatives are needed to resolve the underlying challenges that hold displaced people's lives in limbo."
Disasters continued to trigger most internal displacements globally, with 23.7 million recorded in 2021. Weather-related hazards accounted for 94 per cent of the total, many of which were pre-emptive evacuations in the face of cyclones and floods that struck densely populated areas of Asia and the Pacific region. China, the Philippines and India recorded their highest figures in five years at six million, 5.7 million and 4.9 million, respectively.
Conflict and violence collided with disasters in many countries, forcing people to flee several times. Be it in Mozambique, Myanmar, Somalia or South Sudan, overlapping crises had severe knock-on effects on food security and heightened the vulnerability of millions. Covid-19 also aggravated inequalities and made IDPs' lives even more precarious.
Around 25.2 million of the world's IDPs are under the age of 18 and the effects of their displacement go well beyond their immediate safety, wellbeing and education. A healthy and happy child is more likely to contribute to an equitable society and a functioning economy.
More data is needed to better understand these broader and longer-term impacts, but it is clear that protecting and supporting displaced children and young people not only safeguards their rights, but also contributes to a more stable future for all.
"Children and young people are agents of change. Recognising them as such is vital to protect development gains and reduce the risk of future crises," said Alexandra Bilak. "Preparing the world of tomorrow must start with their active participation and leadership."

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The need for negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine could not be more urgent
by UN News, ICRC, UNICEF, MSF, agencies
11 Aug. 2022
UN chief appeals for immediate end to military activities at Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant. (UN News)
Military activities around the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant in Ukraine must stop immediately, UN Secretary-General António Guterres said on Thursday, warning of the potential danger to the area and beyond amid ongoing shelling.
Europe’s largest nuclear plant has been occupied by Russian forces since March, and last week the external power supply system was damaged in an attack.
“I am calling for all military activities in the immediate vicinity of the plant to cease immediately and not to target its facilities or surroundings,” Mr. Guterres said in a statement expressing his grave concern over the unfolding situation.
The Secretary-General recalled his appeal to all parties “to exercise common sense and reason” and not do anything that might endanger the plant’s physical integrity, safety or security.
“Regrettably, instead of de-escalation, over the past several days there have been reports of further deeply worrying incidents that could, if they continue, lead to disaster,” he said.
“I urge the withdrawal of any military personnel and equipment from the plant and the avoidance of any further deployment of forces or equipment to the site. The facility must not be used as part of any military operation. Instead, urgent agreement is needed at a technical level on a safe perimeter of demilitarization to ensure the safety of the area.”
The Secretary-General underlined the UN’s support for the critical work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and its efforts towards ensuring safe operations at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Plant. He also urged the parties to provide the agency with immediate, secure and unfettered access to the site.
“We must be clear that any potential damage to Zaporizhzhia or any other nuclear facilities in Ukraine, or anywhere else, could lead to catastrophic consequences not only for the immediate vicinity, but for the region and beyond. This is wholly unacceptable.”
6 Aug. 2022
The Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, issued the following statement today about the situation at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant:
I’m extremely concerned by the shelling yesterday at Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, which underlines the very real risk of a nuclear disaster that could threaten public health and the environment in Ukraine and beyond.
The IAEA has received information about this serious situation – the latest in a long line of increasingly alarming reports from all sides.
According to Ukraine, there has been no damage to the reactors themselves and no radiological release. However, there is damage elsewhere on the site.
Military action jeopardizing the safety and security of the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant is completely unacceptable and must be avoided at all costs.
Any military firepower directed at or from the facility would amount to playing with fire, with potentially catastrophic consequences.
I strongly and urgently appeal to all parties to exercise the utmost restraint in the vicinity of this important nuclear facility, with its six reactors.
And I condemn any violent acts carried out at or near the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant or against its staff.
In this highly volatile and dangerous situation, it is more important than ever that the indispensable safety pillars that I outlined at the beginning of the war, and that I reiterated again this week at the United Nations, are fully respected in order to maintain nuclear safety and security. Ominously, however, almost all have been compromised at the Zaporizhzya nuclear power plant over the past several months, and yet again, in the last 24 hours, these fundamental pillars have been violated. This must stop and stop now.
In order to help prevent the situation from spiralling even more out of control, the IAEA’s presence to provide technical support for nuclear safety and security is of paramount importance.
We need the cooperation, understanding and facilitation from both Ukraine and Russia. For the sake of protecting people in Ukraine and elsewhere from a potential nuclear accident, we must all set aside our differences and act, now.
3 June 2022
One hundred days of war in Ukraine. (UN News)
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres marking the tragic milestone:
"Today marks 100 days since the start of the 24 February Russian invasion of Ukraine. As we mark this tragic day, I renew my call for an immediate halt to violence, for unfettered humanitarian access to all those in need, for safe evacuation of civilians trapped in areas of fighting and for urgent protection of civilians and respect for human rights in accordance with international norms.
The conflict has already taken many thousands of lives, caused untold destruction, displaced millions of people, resulted in unacceptable violations of human rights and is inflaming a three-dimensional global crisis – food, energy and finance – that is pummeling the most vulnerable people, countries and economies.
The UN is committed to the humanitarian effort. But as I have stressed from the beginning, resolving this conflict will require negotiations and dialogue. The sooner the parties engage in good-faith diplomatic efforts to end this war, the better for the sake of Ukraine, Russia and the world".
United Nations Crisis Coordinator for Ukraine, Amin Awad:
"This war has taken an unacceptable toll on people and engulfed virtually all aspects of civilian life. This war has and will have no winner. Rather, we have witnessed for 100 days what is lost: lives, homes, jobs and prospects. We have witnessed destruction and devastation across cities, towns and villages. Schools, hospitals and shelters have not been spared.
Families and communities have been disrupted and uprooted. In just over three months, nearly 14 million Ukrainians have been forced to flee their homes, the majority women and children – a scale and speed of displacement not witnessed in history.
More than 3 million children saw their education suspended – an entire generation of children whose future hangs in the balance. All over the country, hundreds of thousands of people do not have access to water and electricity, and millions do not know where their next meal is coming from. 15.7 million people are in need of humanitarian support now, with numbers growing.
One hundred days on, the war ravages unabated especially in the east of the country. And with winter coming, millions of civilian lives could be in peril.
UN agencies and humanitarian partners in Ukraine continue to work to support those whose lives have been shattered by war. In the past 100 days, we have provided humanitarian aid to some 8 million people across the country, including in besieged cities in the east of Ukraine. Our efforts to respond to the war’s devastating impact will continue. But above all we need peace. The war must end now".
ICRC director-general Robert Mardini:
"It would be hard to exaggerate the toll that the international armed conflict in Ukraine has had on civilians over the last 100 days. The scale of destruction in cities defies comprehension. Homes, schools and hospitals have been destroyed and civilians have suffered the horrors of conflict, with lives lost and families torn apart".
100 days of war in Ukraine have left 5.2 million children in need. (Unicef)
100 days of war in Ukraine have wrought devastating consequences for children at a scale and speed not seen since World War II. Three million children inside Ukraine and over 2.2 million children in refugee-hosting countries are now in need of humanitarian assistance. Almost two out of every three children have been displaced by fighting.
On average more than two children are killed and more than four injured each day in Ukraine – mostly in attacks using explosive weapons in populated areas. Civilian infrastructure on which children depend continues to be damaged or destroyed; this includes at least 256 health facilities and one in six UNICEF-supported ‘Safe Schools’ in the country’s east. Hundreds of other schools across the country have also been damaged or destroyed. Conditions for children in eastern and southern Ukraine where fighting has intensified are increasingly desperate.
UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell said, "the war has shattered the lives of millions of children. Without an urgent ceasefire and negotiated peace, children will continue to suffer – and fallout from the war will impact vulnerable children around the world.”
"The war and mass displacement are devastating livelihoods and economic opportunities, leaving many families without sufficient income to meet basic needs and unable to provide adequate support for their children.
UNICEF continues to call for an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine and to protect all children from harm. This includes ending the use of explosive weapons in populated areas and attacks on civilian infrastructure. UNICEF is appealing for full humanitarian access to safely and quickly reach children in need wherever they may be".
269 verified attacks on health care facilities. (WHO)
“In 100 days of war, there have been over 260 verified attacks on health care in Ukraine. These attacks are not justifiable, they are never ok, and they must be investigated. No health professional should have to deliver health care on a knife edge, but this is just what nurses, doctors, ambulance drivers, the medical teams in Ukraine are doing,” said Dr Hans Henri Kluge, WHO Regional Director for Europe.
“I have been privileged to meet many health workers during my visits to Ukraine. They are keeping vital services and hope alive in the face of unbelievable sorrow and suffering,” he added. Some health facilities have been completely destroyed, while others have been overwhelmed by people seeking care for trauma and injuries resulting directly from the war".
Matilda Bogner, Head of UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU):
"The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU) has been able to verify the deaths of 4,183 civilians and 5,014 civilians injured, but we know that the actual numbers are considerably higher.
Most of the civilian casualties recorded were caused by the use of explosive weapons with wide-area effects. To date, we have documented the deaths of 3,524 civilians from the use of artillery and tank shelling, multiple launch rocket systems, missile and air strikes. The extent of civilian death and damage and destruction of civilian infrustructure, strongly suggests that there have been violations of international humanitarian law, some of which may amount to war crimes.
The Mission has also documented the devastating impact of the war on other human rights. Among them we recorded unlawful killings, including summary executions, torture, ill-treatment, and conflict-related sexual violence. Parties to the conflict should put an end to civilian suffering, and fully respect obligations under international human rights law and international humanitarian law".
Intense and ongoing hostilities continue to cause suffering, deaths and massive destruction of civilian infrastructure across Ukraine, particularly affecting people in the east and south of the country. Hundreds of thousands of people continue to be uprooted by the war, while in the worst-impacted areas people have lived for over two months without adequate access to food, water and electricity or gas, with limited health services, while enduring the constant threat of bombardment.
25 Apr. 2022 (OCHA)
The war in Ukraine, which began on 24 February, has caused death and suffering on a dramatic scale and left at least 15.7 million people in urgent need of humanitarian assistance and protection.
By 21 April, at least 2,345 civilians had been killed, including 177 children, according to the latest estimates by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.
However, the actual death toll is likely to be much higher. In Mariupol alone, local authorities estimate that tens of thousands of people have been killed, while the recent revelations of mass graves in Bucha, Irpin and other areas surrounding Kyiv highlight the likelihood of many more deaths that have not been counted.
The war has seen the use of explosive weapons with a wide impact area in urban settings, including shelling from heavy artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems, and missile and air strikes. The presence of landmines and unexploded explosive ordnance is also a major concern. Even before this war, eastern Ukraine was one of the most mine-contaminated regions in the world.
The conflict has caused the world’s fastest growing displacement crisis since World War II, with nearly 13 million people uprooted in less than two months. Over a quarter of Ukraine’s population have fled their homes, including more than 7.7 million people now estimated to be internally displaced and over 5.2 million people who have crossed borders to seek security and safety in other countries, most of them women and children.
Nearly two-thirds of the children in Ukraine have been displaced.
Massive devastation in urban centres, and the destruction of civilian infrastructure, have made life unbearable for millions of people and severely disrupted critical services, especially healthcare.
In besieged areas, people have lived for weeks without access to food, water and heat, while under the constant threat of bombardment. More than half of all attacks against healthcare facilities in the world this year—119 out of 182 by 11 April—have occurred in Ukraine.
These attacks have decimated access to healthcare at a time when people need it most—women have been forced to deliver babies in basements, injured people have had no access to care and ill children have lost access to life-saving treatments.
Roughly 300 health facilities are in conflict areas and 1,000 health facilities are in areas that have changed control. Nearly 50 per cent of Ukraine’s pharmacies are presumed to be closed and many health workers are either displaced or unable to work.
Other civilian infrastructure has also been severely impacted: more than 869 educational facilities have been damaged and 88 destroyed, according to the Ministry of Education, although these figures are not verified.
Millions of people—including women and small children—have been left without access to safe water or sanitation, drastically heightening the risk of waterborne disease as well as dehydration. Due to attacks on water system infrastructure and power outages an estimated 1.4 million people in eastern Ukraine do not have access to water, and another 4.6 million people across the country have only limited access.
There are mounting allegations of sexual violence perpetrated against women and girls during the war. The threat of gender-based violence—including conflict-related sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse (SEA) and human trafficking—has risen exponentially since the war began. Women from groups in vulnerable situations are being left behind and disproportionately affected by disruptions caused by war.
The armed conflict may prevent farmers from accessing their fields, harvesting, and marketing current crops, planting new crops, or sustaining livestock production. Between 20 and 30 per cent of areas under winter cereal, maize and sunflower production will remain unharvested in July/August, or not be planted this spring, according to the Government and FAO. About half of winter wheat and a third of rye due to be harvested in July–August 2022 are currently in war-affected areas. There are also concerns over damage to standing crops and risk of mines and unexploded ordnance impacting the ability to harvest in the period ahead.
The war has also devastated Ukraine’s economy. The Prime Minister of Ukraine, Denys Shmyhal, has said that economic losses due to the ongoing military offensive may exceed $1 trillion, while some 53 per cent of employed Ukrainians have lost their jobs since the war began, according to a nation-wide survey conducted by the Rating Group in March.
8 Apr. 2022
International NGO statement on the targeting of civilians and civilian infrastructure
We, the undersigned humanitarian organizations, are shocked and disturbed by the level of humanitarian needs and mass civilian deaths, casualties, and sexual violence against women and girls witnessed in different regions across Ukraine.
Targeting densely populated areas and collectively depriving civilians of their right to access basic needs, essential services, humanitarian assistance, protection, and safe evacuation - as well as targeting civilian objects such as hospitals, learning institutions and residential buildings are blatant violations of International Humanitarian Law.
As humanitarian organizations following the principles of neutrality, independence, and impartiality, we are seriously concerned about the ongoing hostilities and the international community's unsuccessful efforts at negotiating and securing a ceasefire. The cessation of hostilities is urgently needed to stop the killing of civilians and the suffering of people in Ukraine. We are closely monitoring the ongoing UN-led high-level negotiations and demand that they have a positive outcome on the humanitarian situation on the ground.
Nothing can justify the ongoing suffering of civilians, particularly children and women, older women and men, and people with disability in Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodianka, Mariupol, and in other Ukrainian regions. All parties to the conflict must uphold their international obligations, including not targeting civilians and vital public infrastructure such as hospitals, schools, and water and electricity supplies. All parties to the conflict must not tolerate in their ranks sexual violence. Such serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in armed conflicts could amount to war crimes.
"I will never forget the day I tried to get out of Irpin. I was outside when my neighbor's car was shelled. The father died, and the mother and her child were wounded. It is difficult to accept this and impossible to understand. I desperately want this war to come to an end," - Olha, a senior from Irpin, currently displaced in western Ukraine.
We call for a serious political agreement for the protection of civilians, including safe and voluntary passage to people who want to leave high-risk areas across Ukraine. At the same time their right to determine their destination of choice for evacuation must be respected in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention.
Parties to the conflict must urgently facilitate unimpeded humanitarian access allowing relief workers and volunteers to urgently deliver life-saving assistance and medical support to people in need. Under the IV Geneva Convention and the UN Security Council Resolution 2286, health personnel and health facilities, such as hospitals and other facilities that have been set up for medical purposes, must be respected and protected in all circumstances. Medical units may not be attacked and access to them may not be limited.
The international community, including the UN Security Council and the UN General Assembly, must take sterner measures to bring hostilities to an end, and reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights and conditions under which respect for the obligations from treaties and other sources of international law can be maintained.
We add to and reiterate our demands from March 4, 2022:
An immediate cessation of hostilities and targeting of civilians, civilian objects and infrastructure;
All parties to the conflict must abide by International Humanitarian Law (IHL). Attacks targeting civilians and public infrastructure, including facilities that are indispensable for the survival of the civilians are prohibited under IHL. At no time should hostilities jeopardize the rights, well-being and safety of civilians or civilian objects such as schools, health centers, markets or farmlands, among others;
Safe and unhindered humanitarian access, including across conflict lines for humanitarian assistance to reach all those in need, particularly those in vulnerable situations, with respect to the independence and neutrality of humanitarian agencies and the protection of humanitarian personnel and volunteers;
All children have the right to enjoy provisions under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which urges all persons to consider the best interests of the child. During armed conflict, IHL provides general protection for children as persons not taking part in hostilities and special protection as particularly vulnerable persons. Protocol I, Article 77: "Children shall be the object of special respect and shall be protected against all forms of indecent assault. The parties to the conflict shall provide them with such care and assistance as they may require, whether on account of their age or for any other reason";
All parties must abide by their obligations under Security Council resolutions on Children and Armed Conflict, and prevent the killing and maiming, recruitment, use, sexual exploitation and sexual violence against girls, boys and adolescents who are at risk of suffering the six grave violations against children in conflict;
All parties to the conflict must recall the fundamental Principle of Distinction and the Safe Schools Declaration to ensure the protection of all children and facilities including schools, kindergartens and hospitals where children are present. The full range of duty bearers and armed actors must ensure that children and their caregivers remain safe, regardless of the prevailing circumstances;
The United Nations Security Council to uphold their mandate, ensure the protection of civilians and maintain international peace and security away from political disputes;
A serious political agreement for the protection of every civilian trapped in high-risk areas anywhere in Ukraine, including safe and voluntary passage to people who want to leave, humanitarian access, and protection. At the same time their right to determine their destination of choice for evacuation must be respected in line with the Fourth Geneva Convention;
Ensure full cooperation with the United Nations and the ICRC to facilitate the implementation and monitoring of safe and systematic passages enabling the swift passage of humanitarian cargos and convoys including the safe passage of all civilians and relief workers;
All countries to equally welcome all foreign nationals and stateless persons fleeing Ukraine regardless of their nationality, sexual orientation, gender identity, country of origin, religious background, race or ethnicity;
All funds to alleviate the suffering, and for people affected by the conflict in Ukraine must be additional and flexible, or new funding streams adapted to local actors. They must not be diverted from other under-funded humanitarian crises taking place globally.
11 Mar. 2022 (UN News)
With the war in Ukraine now in its third week, UN political affairs chief Rosemary DiCarlo warned the UN Security Council on Friday that direct attacks against civilians and civilian objects are prohibited under international law, and may amount to war crimes.
Ms. DiCarlo said Russian armed forces are pursuing laying siege to several cities in the south, east and north of the country.
The situation is particularly alarming in Mariupol, Kharkiv, Sumy and Chernihiv, she said, where shelling of residential areas and civilian infrastructure has resulted in an increasing number of civilians killed and injured.
“The utter devastation being visited on these cities is horrific,” she stressed.
Civilians ‘inexcusably’ targeted
As of 11 March, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recorded 1,546 civilian casualties - including 564 killed and 982 injured - since the start of the Russian invasion.
The real casualty figures are likely “considerably higher”. Most have been caused by explosive weapons with a wide impact area, including heavy artillery, multi-launch rocket systems and air strikes.
Further, she said OHCHR has received credible reports of Russian forces using cluster munitions in populated areas - indiscriminate attacks, which are prohibited under international humanitarian law.
As of 10 March, the World Health Organization (WHO) verified 26 attacks on health facilities, health workers and ambulances, causing 12 deaths and 34 injuries. This includes the bombing of the Mariupol maternity hospital on 9 March, which she condemned.
Ms. Di Carlo went on to describe the targeting of civilians, residential buildings, hospitals, schools and kindergartens as “inexcusable and intolerable”, emphasizing that all alleged violations of international humanitarian law must be investigated, and perpetrators held accountable.
Millions in dire need of aid
Ms. Di Carlo said humanitarian aid is being scaled up in areas where security permits and has reached more than 500,000 people. The UN and partners have developed operational plans to meet humanitarian needs where they are most acute, she said, appealing to donors who pledged over $1.5 billion to the appeal last week, to release the funding quickly.
Evacuations must continue
It is critical to achieve a ceasefire to allow for the safe passage of civilians from besieged areas, she told ambassadors. On 9 March, more than 51,000 people were reportedly evacuated through five out of six agreed-upon safe passages. These evacuations must continue.
The number of refugees fleeing the violence has reached 2.5 million – all of whom, including third country nationals, need access to safety and protection, in line with the principle of non-refoulement, and without discrimination.
‘Logic of dialogue’ must prevail
“The need for negotiations to stop the war in Ukraine could not be more urgent”, she said, noting that three rounds of talks held thus far between Ukrainian and Russian delegations must be intensified – notably to secure humanitarian and ceasefire arrangements as a matter of priority. “The logic of dialogue and diplomacy must prevail over the logic of war.”
Perhaps most alarming are the risks the violence poses to the global framework for peace and security, she said, adding that: “We must do everything we can to find a solution and put an end to this war; we must do it now.”
* OCHA Humanitarian updates:
Mar. 2022
Humanitarian Impact Situation Report (4 March 2022: OCHA)
Urban areas across certain parts of Ukraine have been facing more than a week of relentless shelling that continues to damage and disrupt the functioning of critical civilian infrastructure, leaving thousands without water, heating, or electricity. Shelling and overall violence are also creating critical shortages of food and medicine and preventing the delivery of life-saving supplies and the evacuation of the most vulnerable.
As the geographic reach of the conflict continues to expand every day, new areas outside the traditional hotbeds in eastern Ukraine and major urban centres are increasingly being affected, a worrying trend that could contribute to a significant expansion in the scope and scale of the humanitarian crisis.
The number of civilian causalities continues to mount with each passing hour. Between 24 February and 3 March, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reports at least 1,006 civilian casualties, including 331 killed, a figure that is likely much higher as civilian deaths and injuries continue to be verified.
The UN and its humanitarian partners continue to scale up their operations and are preparing to respond to the increased level of humanitarian needs. Several international humanitarian organizations have already been able to deliver assistance either to neighbouring countries or inside Ukraine. The level of humanitarian response is expected to continue growing in the coming days and weeks.
On 3 March, the latest talks between the Russian Federation and Ukraine reportedly resulted in a "joint commitment" to establish humanitarian corridors for the safe passage of civilians from and humanitarian relief supplies to the worst affected areas (yet to be realised in substance). This is potentially a key development in the ongoing humanitarian response across Ukraine, as a growing number of Ukrainian cities come under a relentless siege that is driving an unprecedented humanitarian crisis in the country.
The most urgent needs are reported in Dnipro (central), Donetsk (east), Kharkiv (east), Kherson (south), Kyiv (capital), Luhansk (east) and Mariupol (south-east) – home to more than 7.3 million people combined.
Many cities across certain parts of Ukraine have been facing a week of persistent shelling that continues to damage or disrupt functioning of civilian infrastructure, leaving thousands without water, heating or electricity, creating critical shortages of food and medicine.
This is also preventing the delivery of life-saving supplies and the evacuation of the most vulnerable, including children, women, the elderly and people living with disabilities, as roads and bridges as well as trains and railway stations have been significantly damaged or destroyed.
The number of civilian causalities continues to mount with each passing hour. As the geographic reach of the conflict continues to expand every day, new areas are increasingly being affected, a worrying trend that could contribute to a significant expansion in the scope and scale of the crisis.
On 3 March, the northern city of Cherniv – home to around 285,000 inhabitants – more than two dozen people were reportedly killed and nearly 20 others injured after strikes hit a civilian apartment complex.
In the early hours of 4 March, reports emerged of a fire had broken out at a training centre at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant – the largest of its kind in the country – located in south-eastern Ukraine as clashes in the surrounding area of Enerhodar raged on. The fire has since been extinguished and preliminary reports suggest that the plant has not sustained any critical damage to essential equipment, with the IAEA saying that there has not been a change in the radiation levels at the power plant, which is home to six of the country’s 15 nuclear energy reactors.
The incident served as an ominous reminder of the potential environmental health catastrophe that the ongoing conflict could produce, potentially releasing large amounts of radioactivity in the worst-case scenario.
Amid escalating violence, internal and cross-border displacement continues unabated across certain parts of Ukraine, driving a corresponding growth in humanitarian needs that has already reached crisis levels after just over a week.
While the scale and scope of displacement are not yet clear, it is estimated that more than 10 million people could potentially flee their homes amid the current crisis, including a staggering 4 million people who may cross international borders, a figure that has already surpassed one million since 24 February.
25 Feb. 2022
Ukraine crisis: Terrified families seek shelter underground in capital. (UN News)
Amid reported deadly missile attacks from Russia’s military invasion in Ukraine, including the capital Kiev and other cities, terrified families have been forced to seek shelter underground, the UN said on Friday.
“There have been major attacks in Kiev that have created greater fear and panic among the population, with families really scared, moving alongside their children into subways and shelters, and this is clearly a terrifying moment for children across the country,” said Afshan Khan, UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Regional Director, Europe and Central Asia, speaking in Geneva.
The development follows renewed condemnation for the Russian invasion by UN Secretary-General António Guterres, who on Thursday appealed for peace and allocated $20 million from the Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) to meet urgent needs.
The use of force by one country against another is “the repudiation of the principles that every country has committed to uphold,” which applied to the military offensive in Ukraine, Mr. Guterres insisted. “It is wrong. It is against the Charter. It is unacceptable. But it is not irreversible.”
The Secretary-General called on soldiers in Russia’s war on Ukraine to “return to their barracks”... “We must never give up. We must give peace another chance,” he said.
UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths warned that the military escalation will have a high impact on civilian lives, and he reiterated the UN Secretary-General’s call for an immediate ceasefire.
Two days since Russia launched military operations inside Ukraine, the UN rights office, OHCHR, confirmed that confirmed that many civilians have already been killed and injured.
Communities are already in need of aid relief.
“When we look at shortages, we’re talking about fuel, which has been well reported in the media, we’re talking about cash, because often in humanitarian situations, cash assistance would be our first support to families, so obviously there’s been a drawdown on banks,” said UNICEF’s Ms. Khan.
Echoing that message and in an appeal for guaranteed humanitarian access to the most vulnerable individuals, the World Health Organization (WHO) highlighted concerns that medical teams face being overwhelmed.
“We don’t have reports yet from the hospitals, when we look to particular injuries and the details of medical needs,” said Jarno Habicht, WHO Representative in Ukraine. “Where our focus has been now, is that the prepositioned medical kits. We will run out of them soon, so what is important how to ensure new supplies to come and...that there are humanitarian corridors from the neighbouring countries available.”
UN agencies have been active in Ukraine for many years, particularly since Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 – a move in large part rejected by the international community.
Immediate priorities include assessing what already vulnerable communities need in eastern regions of Donetsk, Luhansk and other oblasts.
“We are still trying to monitor what the situation is vis-à-vis civilian infrastructure,” said UNICEF’s Ms. Khan.
“As you know, there has been hits of critical infrastructure in the east, particularly in Donbass for some years and they have been cut off, hence the UNICEF water trucking operations. In the current scenario we are still trying to see which civilian infrastructure has been hit and where.”
Announcing the emergency funding allocation for the Ukraine crisis, Mr. Guterres underscored that the UN and its humanitarian partners are “committed to staying and delivering, to support people in Ukraine in their time of need.”
Forced mass displacement has also begun, the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) confirmed.
“There are more than 100,000 who we estimate have lost their homes and are displaced inside the country and we are also aware of several thousand who have crossed international borders in the region, and we’ve seen those really just happening since the onset of the situation,” said UNHCR spokesperson Shabia Mantoo.
“We’re seeing these reports and we’ve seen for instance yesterday that there were about 5,000 refugee arrivals in Moldova already, but the other movements are being reported in Poland, Romania, Slovakia and the Russian Federation.”
24 February 2022 (OHCHR)
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet said she was deeply alarmed about the Russian Federation’s military attack against Ukraine.
“Civilians in various parts of Ukraine were awoken by sounds of heavy bombardment and are terrified of further escalation, with many fleeing their homes,” Bachelet said. “This military action clearly violates international law and puts at risk countless civilian lives. It must be immediately halted.”
“States that fail to take all reasonable measures to settle their international disputes by peaceful means fall short of complying with their obligation to protect the right to life,” Bachelet stressed.
Reports have emerged of military strikes near major cities with significant populations, including Kharkiv, Kramatorsk, Odesa, Mariupol and the capital, Kyiv.
“The protection of the civilian population must be a priority. The use of explosive weapons in populated areas should – at all costs – be avoided,” Bachelet said.
The High Commissioner called for full respect for international humanitarian law, in particular the four Geneva Conventions of 1949 and their first additional protocol of 1977, as well as international human rights law.
In the conduct of hostilities, the principles of distinction, proportionality and precautions must be fully respected, in particular by taking all required measures to protect the civilian population and civilian objects from the effects of the hostilities.
The UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission remains in the country and will continue to closely monitor and report on the situation.
“An information war is also under way and it is particularly crucial at this time that we continue to closely monitor and attempt to verify reports of human rights violations, including civilian casualties, damage to civilian objects, including critical infrastructure, and other impact on human rights on the ground,” Bachelet said.
The UN Human Rights Office (OHCHR) underlined that Ukraine’s people were “terrified of further escalation of the conflict".
Protests have taken place around the world (including in Russia) calling for an immediate end to fighting in Ukraine.
24 Feb. 2022
International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) President Peter Maurer on the situation in Ukraine:
The intensification and spread of the conflict risk a scale of death and destruction that are frightening to contemplate, given the immense military capacities involved.
We already see the immediate consequences for civilians, with the latest intensification triggering new displacement. Residents in Donbas and elsewhere have already endured eight years of conflict. Now I fear increased suffering, with the potential of massive casualty numbers and extensive destruction of civilian objects like water and electricity plants, as well as mass displacement, trauma, family separation, and missing persons.
It is ICRC's long experience that miscalculations, a lack of understanding and faulty assumptions to assess potential civilian impacts of major combat operations can have terrible effects.
We call for those involved in that fighting to take into account that:
Parties to the conflict in Ukraine must adhere to international humanitarian law, including the four 1949 Geneva Conventions and its First Additional Protocol from 1977, as well as ensure the protection of the civilian populations. They must refrain from attacks that violate the rules of the conduct of hostilities or prohibitions on means and methods of warfare. The use of weapons with wide area effects should most certainly be avoided in populated areas.
Attacks must not be directed against civilian objects. Essential infrastructure must be spared, including water, gas and electrical systems that, for instance, provide civilian homes, schools and medical facilities with vital water and electricity supplies. Attacks carried out with new technologies and cyber means must also respect international humanitarian law.
Space for neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian action must be protected so that aid actors like the Ukrainian Red Cross, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and the wider Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement can maintain access to civilians.
The ICRC's priority is to assist those in need. The security situation permitting, our teams now in Ukraine will continue their work to repair vital infrastructure, support health facilities with medicines and equipment, and support families with food and hygiene items. We will also continue our bilateral and confidential dialogue with the parties to the conflict to protect those affected by the fighting.
We call for all states to do everything in their power and influence to avoid escalating a conflict whose cost and consequences for civilian populations outpaces the capacity to protect and assist them.
The ICRC has seen many conflicts start and escalate in recent years, but too few of them end, and in each one it is the civilian populations that bear the consequences.
24 Feb. 2022
Statement by UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell on children in Ukraine:
“UNICEF is deeply concerned that intensifying hostilities in Ukraine pose an immediate threat to the lives and wellbeing of the country’s 7.5 million children. Heavy weapons fire along the line of contact has already damaged critical water infrastructure and education facilities in recent days. Unless the fighting subsides, tens of thousands of families could be displaced, dramatically escalating humanitarian needs.
“UNICEF is working across eastern Ukraine to scale up life-saving programmes for children. This includes trucking safe water to conflict-affected areas; prepositioning health, hygiene and emergency education supplies as close as possible to communities near the line of contact; and working with municipalities to ensure there is immediate help for children and families in need. UNICEF-supported mobile teams are also providing care to children traumatized by the chronic insecurity.
“The past eight years of conflict have inflicted profound and lasting damage to children on both sides of the line of contact. The children of Ukraine need peace, desperately, now.
“UNICEF echoes the appeal of the Secretary-General for an immediate cease-fire and calls on all parties to respect their international obligations to protect children from harm, and to ensure that humanitarian actors can safely and quickly reach children in need. UNICEF also calls on all parties to refrain from attacking civilian infrastructure on which children depend - including water and sanitation systems, health facilities and schools.”


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