Ukraine. Humanitarians stress urgent need for ‘localized’ ceasefires – Ukraine

Local ceasefires are needed more than ever in Ukraine as the conflict shifts to eastern regions following Russia’s withdrawal from the region around the capital Kyiv, UN aid workers said on Friday, while world food prices have reached record highs.

Six weeks after the Russian invasion, thousands of civilians are believed to still be trapped in the southern port city of Mariupol, where they have endured weeks of heavy shelling.

But there is still no truce agreement between Russian and Ukrainian forces to let them escape safely, amid continued mediation efforts by UN emergency relief chief Martin Griffiths. .

Agreement is the key

“**What’s important is to get the parties to agree on… localized ceasefires**,” said Jens Laerke, of the United Nations Aid Coordination office. Nations OCHA. “It is a top priority to silence the guns in these cities, Mariupol being the most affected, those where citizens are trapped.

“To allow them to voluntarily put themselves in safety, in a place of their choice. And to let help in. It is therefore a gradual process.

As fighting shifts to the Luhansk and Donetsk regions where Russian-backed separatists already control significant Ukrainian territory, Laerke said the UN and its partners are trying to get as much aid in as possible. .

“**People are still holed up in the basements of Luhansk and Donetsk**. We have convoys in our schedule to go there… next week. Again, whether this happens again depends on the security situation. »

The exodus continues

Since the start of the war on February 24, more than four million people have fled Ukraine, the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) has confirmed.

“The war in Ukraine has triggered one of the fastest-moving humanitarian and displacement crises ever,” said UNHCR spokesman Matthew Saltmarsh. “**In six weeks, more than 4.3 million refugees have fled the country, while another 7.1 million are internally displaced**.”

Inside Ukraine, relief items have been distributed to reception centers set up by local authorities, but getting aid to areas of active fighting “remains difficult”, it said. explained Mr. Saltmarsh.

Rescue convoys

“**We continue to strive to reach hard-hit areas such as Mariupol and Kherson with life-saving assistance** through inter-agency humanitarian convoys and have contributed to four such convoys under the notification system relief: two in Sumy, one in Kharkiv and one in Sieverodonetsk, and delivered several additional convoys with the help of partners, reaching 15,600 people with relief items.

The UN remains gravely concerned about the continued attacks on healthcare in Ukraine, as the World Health Organization (WHO) verified that more than 100 attacks on health care have taken place since the beginning of the war on February 24.

“The attacks have so far left 73 people dead and 51 injured,” said WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib.

Of the 103 attacks to date, 89 have affected health facilities and 13 have affected transport, including ambulances.

Skyrocketing food prices

The conflict in Ukraine has also added to fears of a spike in global food prices, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) warned that its food price index had taken a “giant leap” to a new high since its inception in 1990.

“Thanks in large part to disruptions to conflict-related exports from Ukraine and the Russian Federation, grain prices jumped nearly 20%,” said Josef Schmidhuber, Deputy Director of the Markets and FAO Trade.

$25 billion fundraising appeal for food importers

To mitigate the impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on countries that import most of their food needs from both countries, 80 FAO members on Friday called for the creation of a 25 billions of dollars to help them in the short term.

“**This conflict severely aggravates the already significant food security challenges exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, including the already high inflation of food and agricultural input prices**,” the member states of FAO who called for an emergency special session of the UN agency’s Council.

To cover the most immediate needs, **$6.3 billion is needed for the ****Global Food Import Financing Facility** to kick off, FAO said, noting that many more funds could be put in place. available from other sources, such as Special Drawing Rights issued by the International Monetary Fund, which amounted to $650 billion as of August 2021.

“The basic idea is simply to alleviate food import costs, food import bills for net importers with high net import requirements and low income levels,” said Mr Schmidhuber.