Ukraine families trapped by conflict "losing hope"

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Damage from the conflict in Ukraine. Photo: WFP/Abeer Etefa

Millions of families trapped by renewed fighting in Ukraine "are losing hope" for their future, a top UN official in the country said on Wednesday.

The UN Resident Coordinator in Ukraine issued the warning after hostilities threatened essential services in Donetsk province.

The unresolved conflict in Ukraine is now in its fourth year.

The state military are fighting heavily armed separatists, who have occupied and are governing a large portion of the country's eastern region bordering Russia.

Daniel Johnson has more.

Freezing temperatures have arrived in Ukraine and with them, deep concern that the recent escalation of fighting may leave communities without the most basic means to keep themselves alive.

Heading humanitarian operations in the country for the UN is Neal Walker.

In a statement he said that the availability of water for more than one million people on both sides of the 459-kilometre "contact line", which divides eastern Ukraine, "hangs in the balance".

That's because in the past six days, the Donetsk Filter Station has been shelled on three consecutive nights.

Another Filter Station in Verkhniokalmiuska was hit more than 12 times on a single night, the UN official said, adding that water is only flowing thanks to the bravery of staff who are keeping the pumps going.

Without water, "heating systems will stop and health conditions will deteriorate", Mr Walker said, adding that any deliberate disruption of access to water is a "clear violation of international law".

Mr Walker also expressed concern about possible exposure to chlorine gas stored at the water works – the explosion of a single 900 kilogramme canister could be enough to kill anyone within 200 metres.

The ongoing violence comes despite attempts to get both sides to implement a peace accord.

At least 2,800 civilians have been killed and between 7,000 and 9,000 injured to date.

Duration: 1’21″

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