An international disaster relief charity helping Ukrainians has called for humanitarian corridors to be opened as it warned of people being trapped in some of the most violent areas without food, water or medicine.
ShelterBox has been working in Ukraine, Poland and Moldova since the Russian invasion sent millions of people fleeing for safety.
The UK-based charity said that as some Ukrainians are returning home and new waves of refugees have been triggered by Moscow’s full-scale offensive in the country’s east, others have remained stuck in hard-hit cities.
ShelterBox’s head of emergency responses Alice Jefferson, who is in the western city of Lviv, told the PA news agency: “What’s so much harder to see and hear from are the people who are in effect trapped.
“It might be they were unwilling to go, it might be that they could not go, they might be immobile, they might have very young children or they might have husbands and sons that are remaining here that they want to stay closer to.
“And what we understand now is that people are continually trapped in some of the hardest, most violent areas and there’s few and far between options for them to either receive vital support or indeed escape and get out through safe means.”
Ms Jefferson, who had just emerged from a crowded air raid shelter before speaking to PA, stressed the importance of humanitarian corridors to allow a safe exit for civilians, as well as to get desperately needed aid into cut-off places.
She said: “Unfortunately, what we’ve seen day to day, week to week in Ukraine is that these corridors have not been agreed to, or when they have, maintained.
“And that’s having a devastating effect on people.”
ShelterBox has already distributed thousands of mattresses in so-called collective centres – such as schools and leisure centres, where displaced people’s details and needs are logged – as well as working to get hygiene items and cash to refugees streaming into Moldova.
It is also partnering with Relief Aid to provide people whose homes have been damaged by the fighting with tarpaulins, thermal blankets, solar lights and jerrycans.
A lot of logistical work is required to deliver the shelter aid packages safely across the country, she said, with one area in the south having just been deemed too unsafe for aid workers to operate in.
Ms Jefferson, whose previous deployments to disaster zones have included Iraqi-Kurdistan, North Korea, Malawi and Lebanon, highlighted two things that have struck her about the Ukraine crisis.
“Firstly, the scale, so the fact that the whole country and the vast majority of the population are affected fairly directly, and often that would happen in a disaster, but not from my experience a whole country of this size quite on that scale.
⚠️We have a team in Lviv, #Ukraine , working with our partner @ReliefAid_NZ to get aid to people who are surviving in damaged buildings and who are staying in collective centres. Here's the latest update from Martin in Ukraine👇 pic.twitter.com/DIrC3NDNmY— ShelterBox (@ShelterBox) April 22, 2022
“The second thing is the speed at which this unfolded, particularly in terms of the impact on people and their lives.
“(It’s) not something I’ve personally seen in a conflict.”
ShelterBox is already looking ahead to refugees’ needs this winter, such as warm clothing, blankets and tools to seal up buildings, she said.
“We know this emergency won’t be going away any time soon.”
For more information visit shelterbox.org