New York, NY, 16 March 2022 — The IRC is extremely concerned about the millions of residents from Ukrainian cities affected by conflict including Mariupol, Chernihiv, Kharkiv, Mykolaiv and Sumy who are now either displaced or living through the horrors of urban conflict. These people require urgent humanitarian assistance and are exposed to safety and security risks.
In IRC’s experience, besiegement almost always entails massive civilian suffering which has included attacks on civilians, critical infrastructure and denial of access - all violations of international humanitarian law. The IRC is doubly concerned given the violations of international law already being committed - such as the targeting of evacuation corridors and the attacks on hospitals. With a lack of clear data of how many people might be affected, the IRC is calling for immediate local ceasefires and humanitarian access to areas most affected.
Bob Kitchen, Vice President of Emergencies at the IRC said:
“We’ve seen the humanitarian impact of not being able to reach people in besieged areas before and we must not allow the same to happen once again in Ukraine. During the Syria crisis, in places such as Eastern Ghouta, Yarmuk, Karaya, Foah and other hard-to-reach places, as many as 3.4 million people were without access to essential services and basic provisions due to continuing hostilities and denial of access. Whilst over 3 million refugees have already fled Ukraine, millions more remain inside the country, in need of urgent assistance.
“As in any conflict, civilians continue to bear the brunt both within Ukraine as well as those that have fled from the country. The humanitarian impact of this conflict is soaring as each day passes. 3 million people have fled Ukraine in the last 2 weeks, making this the fastest and largest displacement crisis this century. Our teams on the ground in Poland are reporting that people are crossing the border and arriving severely traumatised and freezing. We are extremely concerned for the safety and security risks for the many women and children that are arriving alone or becoming displaced within Ukraine. As urban areas increasingly fall under siege, the IRC is doubly fearful of witnessing the same cruel tactics inflicted on the populations of Aleppo and Idlib across Ukraine."
The IRC is calling for an immediate cessation of the conflict in order for humanitarian organisations to reach people in the most conflict-affected areas with critical humanitarian aid. Targeting of humanitarian corridors must cease at once - everyone seeking safety must be allowed to do so through safe and regular pathways.
Through partners in Poland IRC is providing information services through an existing hotline, offering legal counselling and psychological support, and will facilitate access to services (through social workers, interpreters, and cultural assistants) to displaced people. Through partners in Ukraine IRC is also providing evacuation services and essential items to those that have become displaced according to individual needs. This could include blankets, sleeping bags, warm clothes or cash assistance.