Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Martin Griffiths
15 January 2024
Remarks to the press at the joint OCHA-UNHCR launch of the 2024 Ukraine Humanitarian Needs and Response Plan and the Regional Refugee Response Plan for Ukraine
Geneva, 15 January 2024
So right now it is good to be here with Filippo [Grandi] because we are launching, as you said, two response plans today to support the people of Ukraine through 2024.
One is for those who fled the war and are refugees which Filippo will speak to. And then the humanitarian plan for those in need who remain in the country. This is a normal process, you know, in places where there are large refugee outflows and where there are connections between the two plans. It is important that they synergize, and you can see that they are complementary.
Ukraine - you remember Ukraine? It has been quite a while since we have seen much about it. I think a year ago it would have been all Ukraine. And now for the last many weeks, we have heard very little about it. So, I am very glad we have got this opportunity today to talk about it, to launch it this morning.
Next month, we will enter a third year and an unexpected, in my view, a third year of full-blown war and occupation. It started, of course, ten years ago in the east of the country. But the escalation in 2022 rushed in a whole new level of death, destruction and despair and of course, of outflow of refugees. Forty per cent of the population will need humanitarian assistance this year. That is 14.6 million people, 40 per cent of the population in Ukraine will need humanitarian aid. Four million people are internally displaced. That is in addition to those who are externally displaced. 3.3 million live in frontline communities in the east and south where the war goes on, under relentless bombardment. 3.3 million people living in the middle of war zones, of bombardment, of uncertainty about where the day will end. And that is really a shockingly high number even these days.
No place in Ukraine is untouched by the war and the wave of attacks that began just before the new year, as we saw, witness to this, to the devastating civilian cost of the war. Add to that the harsh winter, which is sweeping across Ukraine and ratcheting up people's need for lifesaving support, heating, proper shelter, warm clothes and a sufficient calorie intake because of the winter.
In the small towns and villages on the front lines, people have exhausted their own meager resources and rely on aid coming in through the convoys of our partners to survive. In the Donetsk and Kharkiv regions, families live in damaged houses with no piped water, gas, or electricity in the freezing cold. Constant bombardments force older people to spend their days in basements. Children, terrified, traumatized, still have lived for the last [two] years under these circumstances, trapped indoors and many of them with no schooling.
Across Ukraine, homes, schools and hospitals are repeatedly hit. Basic services are not spared. Water, gas and power systems. Indeed, the very fabric of society, how we live, employment, schools, care centers, shopping, safety of access to those places daily, is under threat.
But it is worth taking a moment to remember that Ukrainians refuse to buckle under this extraordinary onslaught. And they refuse to resign. People step up for each other. Community spirit remains high. They volunteer to help deliver relief to those who cannot move, some warm shelter, care for children. No less than 60 per cent of our 500 humanitarian partners are Ukrainian organizations. So, 500 humanitarian organizations operating inside Ukraine, delivering aid inside Ukraine, more than half of them are Ukrainian organizations. A testament really to the community spirit and the patriotic spirit of many people in that country.
We aim to reach more than 8.5 million people this year with water and hygiene services, materials to repair homes, winter clothes, supplies and things that I have already referred to. The plan for 8.5 million focuses, as you know from the math, on the most vulnerable. Those who are close to the frontline are the top priority. And every day, convoys are sent out to reach those in danger, as are the convoys in danger. Aid will be delivered across the country to areas we can reach by these comprehensive programmes on these convoys, in partnership with local NGOs, local partners I referred to and complementing the Ukrainian government's own efforts.
And our relationship with the Ukrainian government remains steady, strong, supportive, and we act under their guidance, under their leadership and often under their direction. We are asking donors for US$3.1 billion in funding for 2024. More will be needed to support those who Filippo will refer to.
No one wants to depend on assistance from outsiders to cover life's basic needs. This is true across the world, whether in Gaza, Sudan or Syria or elsewhere. No one wants to depend on such assistance. But there is no choice for those 14 .6 million who need assistance, 8.5 million of whom we are targeting. They need your help. They need your funding because humanitarian aid remains the lifeline without which they will perish.
As the war continues unabated, without signs that I am aware of, of coming to some conclusion, and amid everything else happening across the globe, we must stay the course for the people of Ukraine. And it is a very sad reminder that today we are begging for attention for Ukraine, when for so many days and weeks and months of previous years we have had much greater attention to Ukraine and we begged for attention for places elsewhere, places are still needed like Sudan and so forth. But today, we beg for attention for the people of Ukraine, and we will be having a launch here, right after this meeting.
Thank you very much.