Millions in Ukraine face food shortages this winter [video]

So-called separatists are blocking humanitarian assistance to eastern Ukraine, putting millions at risk as winter approaches.

The “separatists” recently expelled U.N. agencies and all international humanitarian organizations from eastern Ukraine, limiting not just delivery of food but essential medicines and other relief, U.N. Emergency Relief Coordinator Stephen O’Brien said. About 16,000 tons of assistance is ready for delivery.

This is occurring even after repeated appeals to Russia and the “separatists” at meetings of the OSCE’s Trilateral Contact Group in Minsk, as well as at the October 2 Normandy-format meeting in Paris attended by the leaders of Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France. Russia and the “separatists” must provide unfettered access to humanitarian assistance as part of the Minsk agreements signed in September 2014 and February 2015.

The scope of the problem

The U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs estimates that 150,000 people are not receiving monthly food distributions, 1.3 million people are in danger of losing access to water, and 30,000 people have not received shelter materials and household goods. About 60,000 people do not have access to hygiene, food and medical supplies.

The suspension of humanitarian aid in the Luhansk and Donetsk regions will harm children, women and the elderly the most. “It is having a serious impact on some 3 million people as winter approaches,” O’Brien said.

According to Tomáš Kocián of the aid organization People in Need, the blocked aid includes fuel and repairs to homes. “Without them, people will freeze,” he said.

Hospitals cannot perform surgery because they lack anesthetics, and essential medicines such as insulin and tuberculosis vaccines are in short supply. “We are deeply saddened that so many patients will be left behind,” said Dr. Bart Janssens of Doctors Without Borders.

U.S. State Department spokesman John Kirby called on the so-called separatists to “take immediate steps to improve the lives of the very people they claim to care about most.”

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