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  • Writer's pictureOlga Nesterova

Crisis Deepens in Ukraine's Kharkiv Region

The aftermath following an attack in the city centre of Kharkiv, Ukraine. © IOM The aftermath following an attack in the city centre of Kharkiv, Ukraine.
The aftermath following an attack in the city centre of Kharkiv, Ukraine. © IOM

The United Nations has sounded the alarm once again as the humanitarian crisis worsens in Ukraine's northeastern Kharkiv region, besieged by relentless Russian air and ground attacks.

Shabia Mantoo, spokesperson for the UN refugee agency (UNHCR), highlighted the ongoing onslaught, stating, "Relentless aerial attacks continue, worsening an already dire situation." She emphasized the toll of more than two years of Russian invasion, with lives lost and homes destroyed across the country.

In the past week alone, over 10,300 individuals have been evacuated from villages in Kharkiv region's border areas by Ukrainian authorities, supported by volunteers and humanitarian organizations. Among them are vulnerable groups, such as the elderly and people with disabilities, who were unable to flee earlier.

Russian military advances have forced over 16,000 people to flee the most affected areas in Kharkiv since May 10, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA). The situation in Kharkiv city, already home to 200,000 internally displaced people, is precarious, with conditions expected to worsen if attacks persist.

Kharkiv's critical infrastructure, including energy facilities, is under severe strain, exacerbating the region's challenges with energy supply and power shortages.

Civilian casualties continue to mount, with recent attacks in Kharkiv City resulting in numerous deaths and injuries, including children and a pregnant woman. Dr. Jarno Habicht, WHO's representative in Ukraine, condemned the targeting of ambulances, highlighting the loss of urgent care for Ukrainians.

The healthcare system in Ukraine has been devastated by the conflict, with over 1,700 attacks on health facilities since February 2022. Mental health issues affect an estimated 10 million people, and over 20,000 amputations have been performed since the invasion began.

As humanitarian needs skyrocket in the Kharkiv region, Dr. Habicht stressed the urgency of preparing for the approaching winter. However, inadequate funding poses a significant challenge to addressing immediate and medium-term needs.

To mitigate the impact, WHO has begun installing modular heating units in hospitals across Ukraine. Yet, with only 23% of the required funds secured for the UN's Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan for Ukraine in 2024, and UNHCR's response funded at a mere 16%, the situation remains critical as humanitarian crises escalate.

Source: United Nations, May 21, 2024


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