Ukraine people to face harsh winter without aid

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Ivan Simonovic, Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said it was a “great mistake” to deny UN and other aid agencies access to eastern Ukraine. Photo: UN/Laura Puigvert-Alia

The people in eastern Ukraine face a humanitarian catastrophe in coming months if armed groups continue to refuse access to aid agencies, the UN warned on Tuesday.

Ivan Simonovic, the Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights, said that it was of the "utmost concern" that humanitarian assistance was being used as "a new tool of warfare" by insurgents.

At the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Simonovic said that more than 8,000 people have been killed since the outbreak of hostilities in April 2014 between government forces and armed groups, with over 1.5 million people internally displaced.

Daniel Johnson has more.

After giving an update to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on the situation in Ukraine, Ivan Simonovic said that "kicking out" the UN from the east of the country had been a "great mistake".

With winter just round the corner, people are unprepared for the cold, the UN Assistant Secretary-General for Human Rights warned.

He said that communities urgently needed everything from polio vaccines to windows for their homes.

These were available but no longer allowed into parts of the east of the country after armed groups decided to politicise the supply of humanitarian assistance, Simonovic said.

Just as dangerous is the fact that once the aid supply is cut, it could take up to three months to get it up and running again, he added.

"I think that kicking out UN as well as other humanitarian workers is a great mistake…Once that pipeline is put out of order it cannot start working right the next day; it takes time to repair it."

After nearly 18 months of conflict, Ivan Simonovic said that all that matters to people in Ukraine is an end to the hostilities.

With a ceasefire currently holding, the UN official called on all sides in the conflict to implement confidence-building measures as set out in the Minsk peace accord that was signed in February.

Daniel Johnson, United Nations, Geneva.

Duration: 1’15″

 

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