The evacuation of Mariupol, a ray of hope in the war in Ukraine (UN)


“Our recent efforts to evacuate civilians in the east have shown us that there is goodwill and common ground on which we can build between the parties,” she told the Ministers.

A monumental feat

To date, joint operations between the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) have evacuated more than 600 people from the Azovstal steel plant and other areas of the Ukrainian city of Mariupol, as well as than neighboring towns.

It is a “truly monumental feat amid the ongoing shelling and destruction in the east” and a “beacon of hope”, she said.

Meanwhile, UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths continues to explore ways to bring the parties together to discuss humanitarian issues, including the safe passage of civilians and aid convoys.

Mr Griffiths visited Turkey this week for talks focusing on the country’s support for UN efforts to provide more humanitarian aid.

“We need to explore all options to reach more people where the needs are greatest,” Ms Msuya said.

“We remain firmly determined to leave no stone unturned. To find measures – from local pauses to broader ceasefires – to save lives. The world expects this of us. The Ukrainian people deserve it, ”argued the number two in humanitarian affairs at the UN.

Further help is needed

Despite the hope represented by the evacuations, intense fighting continues to cause immense suffering in Ukraine. The conflict has uprooted nearly 14 million people, eight million of whom are internally displaced, according to the latest figures.

Ms. Msuya also spoke of the “unprecedented” scaling up of humanitarian aid in this crisis. Some 227 partners, mostly national non-governmental organizations (NGOs), have provided assistance to more than 5.4 million people, many of them in the east of the country.

In addition to the evacuations, five inter-agency convoys provided a lifeline to people surrounded by fighting, carrying essential medical supplies, food rations, water pipe repair systems and other items. However, she said that was far from enough.

Ms. Msuya said the parties were informed of the arrival of the convoys. “I urge them to continue their facilitation efforts so that we can reach many more civilians,” she added.

A hell for children

The Security Council also heard from Omar Abdi, Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), who reported on the impact of war on young people in Ukraine and beyond.

He said that over the past month the United Nations has verified that nearly 100 children have been killed in the conflict “and we believe the true numbers are considerably higher”.

Although the evacuations from Mariupol and other frontline areas represented “little moments of relief”, the situation remains grim for children and families in conflict-affected areas who do not have access to ‘aid.

“Children and parents tell us of their ‘hell’ where they were forced to starve, drink from muddy puddles and take shelter from constant shelling and artillery fire, dodging bombs, bullets and landmines in their flight,” he said.

Education in the crosshairs

Education in Ukraine is also in the crosshairs, according to UNICEF’s number two. This week’s horrific attack on a school in Luhansk, in which at least 60 civilians are believed to have been killed, is “a stark reminder of this”. Since the start of the war on February 24, 15 of the 89 schools supported by UNICEF in eastern Ukraine have been damaged or destroyed.

“Hundreds of schools across the country are reported to have been hit by heavy artillery, airstrikes and other explosive weapons in populated areas, while other schools are being used as information centres, shelters, centers supply or for military purposes – with a long-term impact on children’s return to education,” he said.

Mr Abdi has called for an end to attacks on schools, which he says are a lifeline for children, especially in conflict, as they provide a safe space, routines and a semblance of normalcy .

Schools also serve as a connecting link to essential health and psychosocial services. He called for support for teachers, school principals and other education personnel.

Ukrainian children must also continue to have access to education, he added, stressing the need to ensure creative and flexible learning solutions. UNICEF and partners are helping authorities reach students, including through online education.

Learning at home and abroad

Neighboring countries that have hosted Ukrainian refugees are also helping children continue their learning, whether in the classroom or through alternative education pathways.

“An estimated 3.7 million children in Ukraine and abroad use online and distance learning options. But huge obstacles remain, including capacity and resource constraints, language barriers and unpredictable movement of children and their families,” Mr. Abdi informed.

In addition, greater steps must be taken to reach children most at risk or who may be left behind, including young learners and children with disabilities.

Repercussions around the world

The war is having repercussions beyond Ukraine, as global food and fuel prices reach historic highs. Mr Abdi said children are also feeling the effects.

“Children already affected by conflict and climate crises around the world – from Afghanistan to Yemen and the Horn of Africa – are now paying a deadly price for another war far from their doorstep. The repercussions of the war in Ukraine will continue to reverberate around the world,” said the Deputy Director of UNICEF.

Although humanitarians are doing all they can for Ukrainian children, he added, “what they ultimately need is for the war to end”.

“Ukrainian children tell us that they want to be reunited with their families, return to their community, go to school and play in their neighborhood. Children are resilient, but they shouldn’t have to be,” Abdi said.

“They have already paid an unreasonable price in this war. We need to do everything we can to make sure it doesn’t cost them their future as well,” the children’s advocate concluded.

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