UN aid chief says Ukraine faces ‘extremely worse’ humanitarian situation after dam breach

UNITED NATIONS (AP) — The humanitarian situation in Ukraine is “much worse” than before the collapse of the Kakhovka dam, the UN’s top humanitarian aid official warned Friday.

Under-Secretary-General Martin Griffiths said 700,000 ‘extraordinary’ people need clean water and warned flood damage to one of the world’s most important granaries will almost inevitably lead to lower grain exports , rising food prices around the world and less to eat for millions in need

“It’s a viral problem,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But the truth is that this is only the beginning of seeing the consequences of this act.”

The rupture of the Kakhovka hydroelectric dam and the draining of its reservoir on the Dnieper on Wednesday added to the misery in a region which has suffered for more than a year from artillery and missile attacks.

Ukraine holds the western bank of the Dnieper, while Russian troops control the lower eastern bank, which is more vulnerable to flooding. The dam and reservoir, essential for fresh water and irrigation in southern Ukraine, are in the Kherson region that Moscow illegally annexed in September and has occupied for a year.

Griffiths said the United Nations, working mostly through Ukrainian aid groups, reached 30,000 people in flooded areas under Ukrainian control. He said that so far Russia has not given access to areas it controls to the UN to help flood victims.

Griffiths said he met with Russia’s UN ambassador Vassily Nebenzia on Wednesday to ask the Russian authorities for “access for our teams in Ukraine to cross the front lines to provide aid, to provide support to … Ukrainians in these regions”. He added: “I hope it comes to fruition.”

Emergency response is key to saving lives, he said, “but behind that you have a huge looming problem of lack of clean drinking water for those 700,000 people” on both sides under Ukrainian control and under Russian control. river.

There is also the flooding of important agricultural land and a looming problem with the supply of cooling water to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, the largest in Europe, which was fed by the dam, he added. .

Additionally, Griffiths noted that waters have also rushed over areas with landmines from the war “and what we’re bound to see are these mines floating around in places where people don’t expect them”, threatening people. adults and especially children.

“So it’s a cascade of issues, starting with enabling people to survive today and then giving them some sort of perspective for tomorrow,” he said.

Griffiths said that because of the large-scale consequences “it’s almost inevitable” that the United Nations will issue a special appeal for more aid funds for Ukraine to deal with “a whole new order of magnitude” of the breaking of the dam. But he says he wants to wait a few weeks to see the economic, health and environmental consequences before announcing the call.

Griffiths said he and UN trade chief Rebeca Grynspan were also working to ensure the expansion of the Black Sea Grains Initiative, which Turkey and the UN brokered with Ukraine and Russia last July to open three Black Sea ports in Ukraine for its grain exports.

Part of that agreement was a memorandum signed by Russia and the UN aimed at overcoming obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer shipments that Moscow has repeatedly complained of not being adhered to.

A key request from Russia has been the reopening of a pipeline from Russia’s Volga port of Tolyatti to the Black Sea, which has been closed since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022. It carried ammonia, a key ingredient in fertilizers.

“Opening this pipeline and delivering ammonia across the Black Sea to the global south is a priority for all of us,” Griffiths said. “Ammonia is an essential ingredient for global food security.”

A rupture in the pipeline was reported following shelling on Tuesday evening, but Griffiths said the UN could not confirm this because the pipeline is in the middle of a war zone.

“We are of course very, very convinced that we need to fix this as quickly as possible,” he said. “So let’s hope it’s not too damaged.”

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