Ukraine: First UN humanitarian aid convoy to Soledar, IAEA strengthens security measures at nuclear site
A convoy of three trucks carrying water, food and groceries for around 800 people, is being deployed. “Our Ukrainian colleagues arrived this morning, local time, in a government-held area near Soledar, in eastern Donetsk Oblast, in a three-truck humanitarian convoy to assist the more than 800 people still living in the communities around Soledar,” Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the Office The United Nations for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), said at its regular UN press conference in Geneva.
According to OCHA, this is the first inter-agency humanitarian convoy to reach this area. “We notify parties to the conflict about our movements beforehand, through the humanitarian notification system,” Laerke said.
Apart from the basic necessities, the convoy also carried cleaning supplies, medicines and other health supplies. These supplies are being provided by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Migration Agency (IOM) and the World Food Program (WFP).
“Acute” needs in areas close to the front lines
According to an OCHA spokesperson, the recent fighting in and around Soledar has caused widespread damage, leaving people living there in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Under these conditions, aid organizations in Ukraine are trying to increase the number of inter-agency convoys to areas close to the frontlines in Ukraine where the need is urgent.
“Another convoy is expected in the coming days,” concluded Mr. Laerke.
Last Wednesday, UN humanitarian agencies reached Vovchansk in the Kharkiv region, which is only five kilometers from the border with the Russian Federation. According to the United Nations, the community has been badly affected by months of hostilities and the 4,500 people living there depend on humanitarian aid to meet their needs.
The seven-truck humanitarian convoy brought hygiene kits, blankets, solar lights, sleeping bags and emergency shelter kits to more than 1,000 families in the area. WFP will utilize this convoy dispatch to carry out a “rapid assessment of the market in the area”.
Intensification of IAEA activities in Ukraine
Meanwhile, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Rafael Mariano Grossi, briefed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky in Kyiv on Thursday regarding the expansion and intensification of IAEA activities. facilities during the conflict, with several permanent IAEA expert missions set up across the country this week.
In a press release, the IAEA said the two men also continued their discussions on the IAEA chief’s proposal to create a nuclear protection and safety zone around the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant. Europe’s largest nuclear power plant has been the target of several fires in recent months, sparking increasing nuclear safety and security concerns.
Mr Grossi stressed that the area was important to prevent a serious nuclear accident and said he would continue his efforts to make it happen as soon as possible.
“Everyone agrees that the factory – which is located on the front lines in an area of active combat – must be protected, but these are very delicate negotiations. I will not rest until the areas we desperately need become a reality. I will continue my intensive consultations with Ukraine and the Russian Federation in the days and weeks ahead,” he said.
“This major nuclear power plant continues to face danger every day. Our team continues to hear explosions near the site, including two explosions on Thursday,” he added.
Reducing the risk of a nuclear disaster
In Kyiv, the IAEA chief also met with Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal, with whom he agreed in December to set up a permanent team of IAEA nuclear safety and security experts at all of Ukraine’s nuclear power plants and the Chernobyl site.
This plan was implemented this week with an IAEA flag-raising ceremony attended by Director General Grossi at the nuclear power plants in southern Ukraine and Rivne, as well as at the Chernobyl site. Two IAEA experts are now permanently stationed at each of these three facilities to provide technical support and assistance, assess plant equipment and other needs, and report the situation to IAEA headquarters and the world.
“Across Ukraine – from north to south – this week has seen a major expansion of IAEA field support for the country’s efforts to prevent serious nuclear accidents during the war,” Grossi said. “We are determined to do everything in our power to reduce the risk of a nuclear disaster during this tragic war.”