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UN remains focused on ‘critical needs’ of Ukraine’s people

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Achim Steiner, head of the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and Vice-Chair of the UN Sustainable Development Group told delegates he had just returned from the war-torn country, noting civilians’ “extraordinary determination to adapt, to recover and to rebuild.”

“The UN had developed a clear picture to inform a targeted recovery through a Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment developed with our partners”, he said.

He added that the UN continues efforts to provide assistance to all of those in need, including in areas currently under Russian control where humanitarian access is extremely limited.

Farming and environment 

To chart a way forward, Mr. Steiner said the UN and partners were developing a damage assessment with a focus on agriculture and the environment.

He said that in 2023, the UN scaled up its recovery efforts, implementing $1 billion of recovery and development programming in line with the Government’s priorities, driven by 24 different UN offices and more than 3,700 personnel.  

Mr. Steiner highlighted that the UN’s pledge to stay and deliver in Ukraine is characterized by community-level recovery – jointly planning, sequencing, and layering our humanitarian, development, and support for social cohesion.

Rescue workers killed and injured 

The World Food Programme’s (WFP) senior humanitarian official on the ground, Matthew Hollingworth, has condemned an attack on Kherson on Tuesday that killed and injured rescue workers from Ukraine’s emergency services.

He said the incident was yet another example of the human impact of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, reminding the country of its obligations to protect civilians, including rescue workers, under international humanitarian law.

UN Spokesperson Stéphane Dujarric told reporters in New York on Wednesday that agencies were continuing “to work non-stop” to help those impacted by the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam, assisting the “remarkable work” of volunteers and government responders.

“Two weeks since the disaster, UN agencies and humanitarian partners organized 12 inter-agency convoys, including two by boat and amphibious trucks, delivering 50 truckloads of vital supplies to help people in the Kherson Region and those living in the Dnipro Region”, aid Mr. Dujarric.

Access to drinking water continues to be extremely limited due to the disaster. 

“Overall, and across all affected areas, the UN – along with our partners – delivered more than two million litres of water, 130,000 ready-to-eat food rations, hygiene items, medical supplies, shelter kits, sleeping bags, blankets and other essential items.”

‘Marshall plan’ approach needed to stop landmines wrecking economy

Another by-product of Russia’s invasion is the scourge of landmines planted by invaders during their occupation of the country since February last year.

Tens of thousands will need to be cleared to put the country’s economy back on track and enable food to be grown for the rest of the world, said UNDP on Wednesday.

The UN agency has been mandated by Ukraine’s Government to address the economic impact of mine contamination “in years, not decades”, UNDP’s Paul Heslop, who leads mine action in the country, told reporters in Geneva.

He told reporters in Geneva that a “Marshall Plan-type approach” to mine clearance was needed, so that agricultural land can be returned to use as quickly as possible.

The plan devised by the Truman Administration in 1947 helped restore the economic infrastructure of post-World War Two Europe.

“I think it is very realistic for us to say to the international community, make the commitment over the next five years, and we will see Ukraine retake its place as an agricultural powerhouse, and that will affect the world”, said Mr. Heslop. “It will bring down food prices for everybody.”

UNDP believes that with “the right resources and the right commitment”, the world can help Ukraine remove 75 per cent of the economic impact of mine contamination by 2028, Mr. Heslop said. 

He stressed this will require harnessing innovation like satellite imagery and drones alongside traditional demining techniques.

More investment in training and equipment will also be needed and new lending arrangements so farmers can clear land.

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