Tomorrow Yasmine Sherif, Director of Education Cannot Wait, will be the guest at the lunchtime briefing. She will be in the room to update on her recent visit to Moldova and how her program supports Ukrainian refugee children. She will also speak about Education Cannot Wait’s first emergency response in Ukraine.
Speaking of Ukraine, you will have heard what the Secretary General said earlier. He called for a four-day humanitarian break during Holy Week, which begins on Maundy Thursday and lasts until Easter Sunday according to the Orthodox calendar, to allow a number of humanitarian corridors to open.
Noting that the humanitarian needs are dire, the Secretary-General added that people lacked food, water, supplies to treat the sick or wounded, or even basic necessities.
For all these reasons of life and death, the Secretary-General called on Russians and Ukrainians to silence the guns, thus paving a way to safety for many who are imminently at risk. He stressed that the four-day Easter season should be a moment to unite to save lives and encourage dialogue to end suffering in the country.
Also this morning, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, our friend Martin Griffiths, met online from New York with representatives of the Ukraine Council of Churches and other religious organizations representing Christians, Muslims and Jews in Ukraine and reiterated their call for an immediate Cessation of hostilities for the duration of the holy days for all three religions.
In addition to what Mr Griffiths told you yesterday, he continues to work with the Ukrainian government and the Russian Federation to negotiate humanitarian pauses that will allow humanitarian access to the areas hardest hit by the fighting to provide assistance to those people urgently need and to ensure safe passage of civilians stranded in areas affected by the fighting.
Our humanitarian colleagues tell us that the recent escalation in hostilities is taking a toll on civilians and civilian infrastructure, and is exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in the country.
We have also seen that fighting in southern Ukraine around Mykolaiv and Kherson has intensified in addition to the fighting and airstrikes we have seen over the past few days. Heavy shelling in Mykolaiv has left the city without tap water for at least five days, forcing people to use water from streams and rivers. On-site helpers have sounded the alarm about water shortages in at least two hospitals in the city.
Across Ukraine, more than 2,000 civilians have been killed since the war began, according to our colleagues at the Human Rights Office, but we know the death toll is much higher as many reports we have received are still being verified.
For its part, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations said today that around US$115.4 million is urgently needed to prevent further worsening of food insecurity and worsening of food supply chain disruption in Ukraine. The FAO said there is an urgent need to support Ukrainian farmers to grow vegetables and potatoes this spring season, and farmers should be allowed and supported to go to their fields to save the winter wheat harvest.
The FAO estimates that a third of crops and agricultural land may not be harvested or cultivated this year. Preliminary data collected by FAO as part of ongoing assessments show that farmers at all levels need cash to procure inputs and services for food production and to sustain their farms.