Statement by Ambassador Byrne Nason at the UNSC Briefing on Ukraine - Humanitarian
Statement07 March 2022
Thank you President,
I would first like to thank the UNICEF Executive Director, Catherine Russell, I welcome her to the Chamber and thank her and Under Secretary General Griffiths for their briefings today. Your messages were really, really stark but we need to hear them. The International community needs to hear the facts. We commend the vital work of all humanitarians in Ukraine. And today, on the eve of International Women’s Day, I salute the courage of all women working on the ground to save lives. The safety and security of all those brave individuals must be ensured.
Madam President, one of the youngest fleeing over the weekend was a two-month-old boy called Andri, who crossed the border from Ukraine into Poland. As his aunt, Valentina, comforted Andri and his mother, she told UNHCR “I never thought I would have to leave my home. That I would have to flee just to save my life.”
The Russian Federation’s invasion of Ukraine has now created nothing short of a humanitarian catastrophe. As a brutal war is waged, we are seeing little to no regard for the safety of civilians. Andri and Valentina represent only two of the over 1.5 million people have become refugees in less than two weeks. “We gathered some things and fled”, Valentina said. She had reason to: we now know that something in the order of 12 million people are in need of assistance. Thousands have been killed and injured. The human cost is mounting by the day. A humanitarian catastrophe simply of tragic proportions.
In densely populated cities, in villages and towns, Ukrainian civilians are forced to shelter for safety in underground carparks and metro stations. Their daily lives upended. Everything on hold. Terrorised. All the while, the use of explosive weapons destroy their homes and the civilian infrastructure they rely on for survival.
We are hearing reports hourly of multiple attacks on medical facilities including maternity and children’s hospitals, even oncology clinics – all protected under international humanitarian law. We have looked on in horror as attempts to evacuate an estimated 200,000 people from Mariupol have failed. The ICRC has been clear: whatever is agreed, or not agreed, on humanitarian corridors or other measures, civilians and civilian infrastructure must be protected. This applies both to those who choose to leave and to those who choose to remain. That is a core obligation under international humanitarian law.
Each chilling violation of international law evokes the darkest days of Europe’s past.
The humanitarian consequences of damage to civilian infrastructure is not abstract. It means interrupted supplies of electricity, critical for the continuing functioning of hospitals and essential services. It means heating homes. It means enabling parents to cook to feed their children.
The children’s hospital where Valentina worked as a volunteer was hit by artillery at the beginning of the invasion. As she looked at her nephew, she recalled the children she saw killed in that attack. She says simply, “They were so small”.
Ireland calls on the Russian Federation to uphold its international obligations. That includes protecting civilian health care facilities and protecting medical and humanitarian personnel. All parties must also facilitate safe passage and unhindered delivery of humanitarian assistance, including medical and food supplies, to those in need. A notification system and emergency helpline should be established to facilitate delivery of humanitarian aid.
Ireland reiterates our call at last Friday’s meeting for the immediate cessation of military activity by Russia against and at Ukraine’s nuclear facilities, in order to avert nuclear disaster and the subsequent humanitarian consequences. We note that over the weekend the IAEA expressed grave concern at the situation at the Zaporizhzhia plant.
As Ms. Russell so clearly set out for us today, the women and children of Ukraine are in the midst of a desperate protection crisis. The terror of war and the trauma of family separation will have lifelong effects on thousands of Ukrainian children. They will forever be marked by these days.
As in all conflicts around the world, women and girls are especially vulnerable to the abhorrent scourge of sexual violence, sexual exploitation and abuse. All women and girls in Ukraine must be protected from rape and sexual violence. We will work to ensure that there will be no place to hide from accountability for anyone who perpetrates crimes against them.
In the face of the massive exodus of refugees from Ukraine, we once again commend our EU partners and Moldova for their continued generosity and solidarity. They are welcoming vulnerable people seeking to leave Ukraine, without discrimination.
We appeal to all countries in the region to keep their borders open to all those seeking safety and protection. Ireland is fully committed to supporting the humanitarian response both domestically and in the region.
The humanitarian impact of this war will be felt not just on the European continent. It will affect the food security situation in countries heavily reliant on Ukrainian agricultural products in Africa, in Asia and in the Middle East. Reminding us at this table once again of the inherent links between conflict and hunger.
Ireland once again urges the Russian Federation to immediately cease hostilities, unconditionally withdraw its forces from the entire territory of Ukraine and to refrain from further threat of force or use of any kind of force against Ukraine or any other Member State.
Andri and his family speak to the human face of this reprehensible conflict.
Before any more lives are ruined or lost to this war. Before more children die. Before more families are separated. Before it is too late - we plead one more time with the Russian Federation to choose dialogue and diplomacy over bombs and bullets.