United Nations

Ukraine: ‘Humanitarian And Human Rights Catastrophe’ Continues, Security Council Hears

As Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine nears its one year anniversary, the head of UN Political and Peacebuilding Affairs updated the Security Council on Friday, noting that the fighting and suffering continues “with no end in sight”.

Rosemary DiCarlo reiterated the view of the Secretary-General, in reminding that Russia’s invasion of 24 February, was a violation of the UN Charter and international law.

“It has created a humanitarian and human rights catastrophe, traumatized a generation of children, and accelerated the global food and energy crises”, she told ambassadors.

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“And yet, this grave damage could pale in comparison with the consequences of a prolonged conflict”.

Deadly holidays

Many Ukrainians spent the Orthodox holiday season in bomb shelters and mourning the loss of loved ones, she said.

At year’s end, Russian forces targeted Dnipro, Kherson, Kirovohrad, and Kyiv – with multiple strikes reported in Kharkiv, Odesa, Lviv, Zhytomyr, and the capital.

By New Year’s Eve all administrative regions were under air raid warnings, continued the peacebuilding chief.

And the attacks continued in January, threatening all remaining civilians in Kherson, Bakhmut and Soledar.

Following the most recent fighting, the UN human rights office, OHCHR, verified 18,096 civilian casualties since the invasion began.

“This total includes 6,952 people killed and 11,144 injured”, said Ms. DiCarlo, adding that “the actual figures are likely considerably higher”.

Attacks on health

Purposeful, systematic targeting of critical civilian infrastructure, including energy and healthcare facilities, has pushed some 5.91 million women and girls to flee internally.

And 745 recorded attacks on healthcare facilities as of 4 January, were a record for any conflict currently taking place.

“Reportedly 15 per cent of facilities are either partially or completely non-functional, and up to 50 per cent in Donetsk, Zaporizhzhia, Mykolaiv and Kharkiv”, she said.

‘Invisible scars’

“The war is also leaving invisible scars”, she continued, pointing to the long-lasting impacts that the destruction and closing of schools will have on youth.

An estimated 5.7 million students have been directly affected, including 3.6 million shut out of educational institutions early in the conflict.

Citing the World Health Organization (WHO), Ms. DiCarlo said that “nearly a quarter of the population is reportedly at risk of developing a mental health condition because of this war”.

Hundreds of displaced and local children in Ukraine celebrated the new year at Kharkiv’s Spilno Child Spot, run by UNICEF and partners.
© UNICEF/Christina Pashkina
Hundreds of displaced and local children in Ukraine celebrated the new year at Kharkiv’s Spilno Child Spot, run by UNICEF and partners.

Life-saving aid effort

Meanwhile, as of 5 January, humanitarian partners have provided food and critical healthcare support to almost nine million people.

Around 7.3 million have received clean water and hygiene products and over three million uprooted people have received emergency shelter or critical household items.

Since the war began, almost 14 million people have received assistance from over 740 partners, including one million in areas not under Ukrainian Government control.

However, severe access constraints hamper the humanitarian response.

“In line with international humanitarian law, parties must facilitate rapid and unimpeded passage of humanitarian relief for all civilians in need”, said the senior UN official.

Grave rights violations

Turning to allegations of grave human rights violations, OHCHR has documented over 90 cases of conflict-related sexual violence since last February.

Of those, men have been predominantly affected by torture and ill-treatment in detention, while women and girls in areas under Russian control have been sexually violated, including gang rape.

“It is imperative that all perpetrators of human rights violations are held accountable”, spelled out the senior UN official.

Since May, the International Criminal Court (ICJ) has continued working inside- the country, focusing on the unlawful transfer and deportation of civilian objects and people from Ukraine to Russia, including children.

A doctor takes care of patients at a hospital in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
© UNICEF/Evgeniy Maloletka
A doctor takes care of patients at a hospital in Kharkiv, Ukraine.

Black Sea Grain Initiative

Despite challenges, the Black Sea Grain Initiative meanwhile continues to make a difference, including by helping to lower global food prices.

The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has reported a continued decline of its Food Price Index.

Ms. DiCarlo said that more than 17 million metric tons of food have now been moved under the initiative to some 43 countries, roughly 20 per cent of which is for countries under the World Bank category of low-income or lower-middle-income economies.

The UN also continues to work towards removing remaining obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports as “key to keep prices down and mitigate food insecurity”.

Military logic

In closing, the political chief reiterated that there is no sign of an end to the fighting, and that the prevailing logic “is a military one, with very little, if any, room for dialogue right now”.

“But all wars end, and so too will this one”.

“Ukraine, Russia, the world cannot afford for this war to continue”, she underscored, reminding that the Secretary-General is ready to assist the parties to “end this senseless, unjustified conflict”, on the basis of the UN Charter and international law.

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