Aid groups helped evacuate citizens from the Ukrainian city of Sumy on Wednesday to facilitate their safe passage, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said in a statement.
The ICRC and the Ukrainian Red Cross Society (URCS) carried out an operation on Wednesday that consisted of two convoys with at least 80 buses traveling out of Sumy and heading to the Ukrainian city of Lubny.
The convoy left Sumy at around 3:30 p.m. CET.
“The dimension of this humanitarian catastrophe is just incomprehensible,” ICRC staff member Erik Tollefsen, who was present on the ground and involved in the evacuation, said. “We have civilians in the hundreds who are trying to get on buses and we [ICRC] will try and escort this convoy across the lines and bring them back into some kind of safety.”
The ICRC said in a statement on Thursday that it hopes this is the first of many operations to ensure safe passages for civilians that need urgent respite from violence and humanitarian aid.
An agreement between the parties involved in the conflict at a local level allowed the aid agency’s operation to take place, the statement added, reiterating that the ICRC is not a guarantor of such agreements though it has been able to assist in their implementation.
“It is up to the parties to agree to the terms of any safe passage agreement and then stick to the terms,” the ICRC explained, adding thar people in several Ukrainian cities, including Mariupol, remain trapped with little safe way out and are living without basic needs such as water, food, heat and electricity.
“They, like in other cities affected by the hostilities, desperately need to be allowed safe passage out of cities, they have to choose to leave, and humanitarian assistance needs to be allowed in.”
Around 20,000 civilians have managed to leave the besieged port city of Mariupol so far, mostly in their own private cars, Interior Ministry adviser Vadym Denysenko told Reuters on Wednesday.
Mariupol residents have been trapped in the city by Russian shelling without heating, electricity and running water for most of the past two weeks, Ukrainian officials say. At least 200,000 are in urgent need of evacuation, according to official Ukrainian estimates earlier this week.
200 tons of medical, food aid arrives in Ukraine
A convoy of 11 trucks carrying 200 tons of aid from the ICRC, the German Red Cross (GRC) and other partners of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement reached Ukraine on Wednesday, a statement revealed.
“I’m currently in Ukraine in the city of Vinnytsia. I’m in a warehouse where we are currently offloading the content of eleven trucks, that’s about 200 tonnes of humanitarian assistance that just arrived in the country,” said the ICRC’s spokesperson in Ukraine, Florian Seriex.
The trucks have transported 38 medical kits for those wounded in the conflict – each kit has the ability to treat 50 people with serious trauma injuries – 1,170 relief packages containing blankets, buckets, hygiene products and kitchen sets, as well as 5,120 body bags and water and sanitation supplies.
“Of course, we are conscious that this assistance is only a drop in the ocean of all the needs that we currently observe in Ukraine. People need food, people need water, people need to be in a safe place above all. In the coming days and coming weeks, the International Committee of the Red Cross and its partners will continue this humanitarian assistance and operations,” added Seriex.
The aid is set to be delivered to various affected locations across Ukraine, but this will depend on security conditions, according to the ICRC.
“A priority will be to deliver assistance to people displaced from their homes and living in shelters,” the ICRC statement revealed. “Whilst this aid convoy is a positive development, it is merely a drop in the ocean of the vast humanitarian needs that ICRC teams see unfolding for the people affected by the conflict in Ukraine by the day.”
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