The World Food Program says it is scaling up delivery of food aid into previously inaccessible areas of Ukraine’s conflict but too many areas remain out of reach.
Seven weeks into the Ukrainian conflict, the United Nations has recorded nearly 5,000 civilian casualties, including more than 2,000 killed—figures the U.N. considers to be conservative.
At the same time, the World Food Program estimates nearly half of the country’s population of 44 million is worried about finding enough to eat. Among them, it says, are some six million people in desperate need of food and cash assistance.
Speaking from Lviv, WFP emergency coordinator in Ukraine Jakob Kern said his agency has mobilized more than 60,000 tons of food, enough for two million people for two months.
Some aid, he said, is being distributed to vulnerable people in areas previously beyond reach. Places such as Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, and Borodianka, where civilians have been subjected to weeks of horrific attacks by invading Russian troops.
“WFP has reached 1.7 million people in Ukraine through in-kind food assistance to families in encircled and conflict-affected areas. Most people we reached—1.4 million out of the total 1.7 million—are families trapped in encircled and partially encircled areas of the country. But many of the most vulnerable remain out of our reach behind conflict lines.”
The most visible example of that is the city of Mariupol, which has been under relentless bombardment from Russia since the war started February 24. Kern said tens of thousands of civilians trapped in underground bunkers are in dire need of food, water, and other essential supplies. However, he said relief convoys cannot enter the city without permission from all sides.
“And we need at least 48 hours to safely get food and other items delivered and safely get out again. The city of Mariupol of 100,000 people would probably need two or three trucks a day for just food alone, let alone the other items. So, it is not the question of going with 10 trucks once a month that is not going to cut it.”
He added that a humanitarian operation cannot go ahead without the agreement of all parties to the conflict. The WFP official is appealing to all parties to allow unimpeded, continuous access to families trapped in Mariupol and other encircled areas of Ukraine.