As you have just heard from the Secretary-General and USG DiCarlo, Ukrainian civilians are paying far too high a price for war.
Let me speak briefly about humanitarian needs and what we are doing to meet them, before I refer to my recent travels. In the last six weeks ,as we have heard, at least 1,430 people have been killed, among them over 121 children.
We know this is very likely a serious underestimate. Homes and civilian infrastructure – bridges, hospitals and schools – have been damaged and destroyed.
Current figures on displacement tell us more than 11.3 million people have been forced to flee their homes, of whom more than 4.2 million are now refugees in generous neighbouring countries that Rosemary has just been referring to.
In total, more than a quarter of Ukraine’s population has fled in this extraordinarily short time. And, unfortunately, these figures will continue to rise until we can find a pause, and some peace.
The ground and air offensives and counteroffensives are making life nearly impossible for many civilians in Ukraine. Families, the elderly, women and children have been trapped by fighting already for too long. For more than five weeks, the people of Mariupol have been caught up in the fighting. It is well documented that Mariupol is a centre of hell. Other cities like Chernihiv, Sumy, and Kharkiv remain cut-off from essential goods and services.
The perilous conditions are hampering our efforts to access civilians – or for them to access us. We restate here that civilians must be allowed to move to safer areas without the fear of attacks and to locations of their own choice and selection.
It is vital that all parties to the conflict respect their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians and to allow impartial humanitarian organizations safe, rapid, unimpeded access to all civilians in need, wherever they are in Ukraine.
As the world watches humanitarian needs soar in Ukraine, the United Nations and its partner organizations are making every effort to dramatically increase our support to affected civilians.
The work of the 6,000 volunteers from the Ukraine Red Cross, as we have noted before in this chamber, together with the local Non-Governmental Organizations in eastern Ukraine, continue to work tirelessly at the front line of assistance to communities.
The World Food Programme has reached more than 1.3 million people with cash and food assistance and plans to reach around 2.5 million people in this month. Health partners report that more than 180 tons of medical supplies were delivered in Ukraine, with another 470 tons on the way.
This will address the health needs of around six million people in the months ahead. And I am pleased to say that, after much effort, in the past day another convoy was dispatched from our humanitarian coordination hub in Dnipro to Severodonetsk – in the far east.
Today, food, winter clothing, non-food items, medicine and hygiene kits were offloaded to the Ukraine Red Cross and will reach the hands of those in most need . Indeed, following notification to both parties, as part of the notification system that we and the International Red Cross are involved in, four convoys in total have provided critical support to people in some of the cities encircled by war and experiencing ongoing fighting.
While these are initial steps, it gives us a basis to now expand to scale, to provide much more than one convoy a day.
Let me also emphasize to this Council how concerned I am over the growing number of reports we receive of human trafficking, sexual violence, exploitation and abuse in Ukraine and in the region. As ever, such horrific incidents as we are seeing there overwhelmingly impact displaced women and children more than others.
We are bolstering protection and gender-based violence services through agencies and through the wealth of civil society organizations in Ukraine, to provide specialized care for survivors. These services are being designed and carried out in collaboration with Ukrainian civil society, including very particularly, local women organizations.
Today, I address you from Geneva, having just returned from Moscow overnight. As you know, the Secretary-General as he said, charged me to bring both sides together, on humanitarian grounds, to explore specific and sustained ways to reduce humanitarian suffering, including in particular the pursuit of pursuing a humanitarian ceasefire.
Yesterday, in Moscow, I had long and frank exchanges with the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Sergei Lavrov and his Deputy, Sergei Vershinin, and then separately with the Deputy Minister of Defence. Alexandre Fomin.
In my meetings with these senior officials I also discussed humanitarian convoys of safe passage, including the four which have already been able to move. I outlined possibilities for building further on that cooperation, sharing specific suggestions for mutually agreed upon military freezes to allow for evacuations of civilians and for the safe passage of lifesaving aid.
In effect, for humanitarian pauses in different parts of Ukraine to save lives and bring back a modicum of safety for people living in those places. My counterparts received these suggestions and assured me of their intent to carefully study these ideas which I left with them.
We agreed to remain in close contact. I came away from these meetings believing that we have a very long road ahead of us, but it must be travelled, and we will travel it. Tomorrow, I plan to travel to Ukraine to have discussions with senior authorities from the Ukrainian Government in Kyiv on Thursday on these same issues, and others that they will present to me and also to see first-hand with our Crisis Coordinator, Amin Awad, on the humanitarian response.
Thanks to generous donor contributions, many from governments in this chamber, the humanitarian response since February has been scaled up allowing us to meet the needs of one and half million people. We will need sustained financial support for needs in Ukraine.
And like the Secretary-General, I also want to stress as he has done consistently, that funding must not be diverted from other crises.
Madam President, As you heard from David Beasley last week, conflict, climate shocks, COVID, compounded by the soaring food and fuel costs could push another 47 million people globally into severe food insecurity.
The total number of people around the world who will not know where their next meal comes, could be driven to the astonishing figure of 325 million people around the world. That is by a long distance the highest in our recent history, well over double what it was less than three years ago.
I close by reminding the Council of what it already knows well: the world cannot afford this war. And neither can the people of Ukraine. Like others, I call on all Council Members, and all Member States with influence, to support all efforts from whatever part they come from, in the pursuit of peace and the alleviation of humanitarian suffering. For the sake of the people of Ukraine, and the sake of those around the world who cannot afford to bear the additional burden this war imposes on them. And all of us we must as the Secretary-General says, silence the guns. Thank you Madam President.
Martin Griffiths (born 3 July 1951) is a British diplomat who served as the United Nations Special Envoy for Yemen at the Office of the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen from 16 February 2018 to 19 July 2021.
Griffiths previously served as the first executive director of the European Institute of Peace from 2016 to September 2018. In 1999, he helped launch the Centre for Humanitarian Dialogue in Geneva. He has also worked for Save The Children, Action Aid and UNICEF and has worked as an advisor to multiple United Nations Syria envoys.