ISRAEL AT WAR - DAY 148

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UN warns of ‘extremely dire’ situation in east Ukraine

Ukrainian policemen carry a body away from a five-story residential building that partially collapsed after a shelling in Kyiv on March 18, 2022, as Russian troops try to encircle the Ukrainian capital as part of their slow-moving offensive (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)
Ukrainian policemen carry a body away from a five-story residential building that partially collapsed after a shelling in Kyiv on March 18, 2022, as Russian troops try to encircle the Ukrainian capital as part of their slow-moving offensive (Sergei SUPINSKY / AFP)

The UN warns that humanitarian needs are becoming ever more urgent across war-ravaged eastern Ukraine, with a potentially fatal lack of food, water and medicines in besieged cities.

“The humanitarian situation in cities such as Mariupol and Sumy is extremely dire,” Matthew Saltmarsh, spokesman for the UN refugee agency, tells reporters via video link from Poland.

Residents in those two cities, he warns, are “facing critical and potentially fatal shortages of food, water and medicines.”

Since Russia launched its invasion on February 24, several cities in the east — from Sumy in the north to Mariupol in the south — have been effectively besieged, cut off and faced near-constant attack.

Local officials in Mariupol say more than 2,000 people have died in indiscriminate shelling, and 80 percent of its housing has been destroyed.

UNHCR says more than 3.2 million people have fled Ukraine in the three weeks of war, with millions more displaced internally.

Across Ukraine, 13 million people need humanitarian assistance, it said.

Needs are also surging in a number of cities.

Saltmarsh points out that authorities in Odesa in the southwest had appealed for food assistance to cover 450,000 people there, as well as medicines.

Separatist-controlled areas in the east are also seeing ever more urgent needs.

“More than 200,000 people are now without access to water across several localities in Donetsk oblast,” Saltmarsh says, adding that constant shelling in the Lugansk region had meanwhile “destroyed 80 percent of some localities, leaving 97,800 families without power.”

At the same time, he warns, “targeted attacks on civilians and civilian infrastructure and lack of safe passage are increasing protection risks and posing serious threats to the lives of thousands of civilians.”

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