Citing alleged but largely unspecified violations to restrictions placed in effect by pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the United Nations and affiliated humanitarian organizations have been ordered to leave Luhansk in separatist-held Ukraine.
Since July, when the Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) and the Luhansk People’s Republic (LNR) began to demand humanitarian organizations register with authorities to perform work, charity groups have witnessed food and medical assistance for distribution cut sharply.
Pro-Russian insurgents demanded the UN leave by Friday; the remaining non-governmental organizations (NGOs) were given until Saturday to evacuate Luhansk.
BBC reported 10 of 11 NGOs assisting refugees were denied clearance to complete humanitarian work in the region. The World Health Organization (WHO), the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), are among those told to leave.
Referring to DNR and LNR rebels as “de-facto authorities,” Stephen O’Brien, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, blasted the order to leave Luhansk and demanded the UN and remaining NGOs be allowed to resume their work.
Paramount among the concerns of exiting humanitarian agencies is the halting of food and medical assistance distributed to those fleeing the fighting.
In his statement on the situation in Ukraine, Mr. O’Brien wrote: “All UN agency operations had also been suspended in the rebel-held parts of Donetsk.
O’Brien’s statement further read:
“Some 16,000 tons of humanitarian assistance, including food, shelter and non-food relief supplies cannot be delivered. Hospitals cannot perform surgery because they lack anesthesia. Patients’ lives are at risk without essential medicines such as insulin and tuberculosis vaccines. Some 150,000 people are not receiving monthly food distributions, 1.3 million people’s access to water is at risk, and more than 30,000 people have not received shelter materials and household items they urgently need.
I call on the de facto authorities in both Luhansk and Donetsk to ensure the immediate resumption of UN and international NGO activities. Furthermore, I call on everyone with influence over the de facto authorities to use that influence to ensure the immediate resumption of humanitarian aid by UN agencies and international NGOs, and to win a commitment by the authorities to end interference in the provision of lifesaving assistance.”
Mr. O’Brien is right to cry foul about this, but he may want to direct part of his aggrieved commentary at the West which, through meaningless sanctions, has invited retaliation from the Kremlin through its proxies in Ukraine.
For the time being, it is the Ukrainian refugees, the victims in this mess, who are forced to patiently bear depravations.
[Express.com] [BBC News] [UNOCHA.org] [Photo courtesy Sascha313.wordpress.com]