On 31 October 2023, Mr. Ramesh Rajasingham, OCHA Director of Coordination delivered a briefing to the UN Security Council on the Humanitarian Situation in Ukraine, on Behalf of Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, Mr. Martin Griffiths.
While much international attention is rightly concentrated on the grave events in the Middle East, it is important that we do not lose focus on other crises, particularly not one as brutal and far-reaching as that precipitated by the war in Ukraine.
Indeed, this is more so as the conflict continues to inflict unimaginable levels of suffering.
Countrywide, air strikes, artillery fire, and ground fighting continue on a daily basis. People’s lives are dominated by the constant sound of air raid sirens, as unrelenting air strikes rain down and destroy civilian objects – one day a post office terminal, another day a small café, yet another day a grocery shop. Near front lines, people’s daily routines now include picking their way around land contaminated by mines.
The dozens of people killed in the horrific attack on the village of Hroza in Kharkiv region we discussed at the start of this month joined the thousands of others killed in strikes on homes, schools, fields, and markets across Ukraine in the course of this war.
At the latest count, more than 9,900 civilians have been killed since the start of the invasion. To put this into perspective, this is equivalent to almost 16 civilians killed every day.
As these are only the figures OHCHR has so far formally verified, the actual toll is certainly higher.
The devastating toll of these relentless attacks on civilians and civilian objects does not end there.
Significant damage and destruction of critical infrastructure continues to severely impact access of the civilian population to electricity, heating, water and telecommunications. This is a particular concern as winter fast approaches, and temperatures start to drop towards minus 20 degrees Celsius.
Since the start of the invasion, the World Health Organization has also verified more than 1,300 attacks on health care. This is more than 55 per cent of all attacks against health care in the world over the same period. 111 health care workers and patients have been killed and many more injured. Just in the past 2 months, since the beginning of September, 13 health facilities have been impacted by attacks.
The damage to Ukraine’s health infrastructure comes at a time when it is needed more than ever. In some parts of the east and south, services have been decimated as not even half of hospitals or clinics remain functional.
Humanitarian organisations have not been spared, and the operating environment has become more dangerous as the war in Ukraine continues. The number of humanitarian aid workers killed has more than tripled from four in 2022 to 14 so far in 2023.
Attacks harming humanitarian assets have also increased, including the destruction of or damage to aid storage facilities and relief supplies.
I am compelled, once again, to reiterate that under International Humanitarian Law (IHL), parties must take constant care to spare all civilians – including humanitarian personnel – and civilian objects, including homes, schools, hospitals, and other essential infrastructure. Indiscriminate attacks are strictly prohibited.