The United Nations has renewed its calls for civilians to be safely released from the besieged port city of Mariupol.
Martin Griffiths, the UN’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs, described Mariupol in a statement on Thursday as “an epicenter of horror”. Repeated attempts by Red Cross convoys to evacuate civilians failed last week as they were unable to reach the town.
Griffiths announced the deaths of two aid workers from the Catholic relief group Caritas, along with five members of their families, when their office was hit on March 15. Information on the deaths “only became available now”, he said.
Mariupol has been under constant bombardment for more than a month as a Russian blockade cuts the city off from food, water, heating and humanitarian aid. Mariupol Mayor Vadym Boychenko said on Wednesday that 50,000 to 70,000 people remained in and around the city. He had previously said that more than 10,000 civilians had been killed.
“It’s a devastating situation: people are starving,” World Food Program executive director David Beasley told The Associated Press on Thursday. He predicted that the situation would get worse in Mariupol and Ukraine as a whole, but vowed: “We will not abandon the people of Mariupol”.
He also warned that WFP humanitarian operations in other countries would be affected by the disruption of grain supplies from Ukraine.