the plans of evacuation of the civilian population in the besieged city of Mariupol, in southeastern Ukraine, have failed for the second time this Sunday. Russians and Ukrainians again accuse each other of breaking the ceasefire during the war, while some 400,000 people They continue to be trapped between the bombings and without the most basic resources to survive: they have no electricity or water and have been left without access to food. Many, in a desperate situation, have come to loot some supermarkets which, as is also the case with pharmacies, are already practically empty.
Who reports the serious situation in Mariupol after six days of siege is one of the workers of Doctors Without Borders which is there at the moment. His story was sent this Saturday to his colleagues from the NGO, but it was shared with RTVE.es this Sunday:
“The situation is the same as in recent days, but tonight the shelling was stronger and sounded closer. Yesterday we collected snow and rainwater to be able to drink. Today we have tried to get water at the distributions, but the queue was huge. We also try get bread, but there is no clarity regarding the schedule or the places where it is distributed. According to the population, several grocery stores have been destroyed by missiles and what could be saved was taken away by desperate people,” he says.
There is also no telephone network and pharmacies “have no medicines”
This is how they try to survive the bombing, in a snowy city “without electricity, or water, neither heating nor mobile phone network“. As if that were not enough, the pharmacies, he says, “have no medicines.”
Also Alex Wade, MSF emergency coordinator in Ukraine, explains the situation in recent days and points out that the worst damage has occurred in the city center and on the outskirts. In your view, if the problem is not “immediately” addressed“in the next few days there will be a serious emergency.”
“There is no electricity, which means no heating. There is also no water. We are in contact with our colleagues, with people we have known and worked with for years and who are there, who communicate these needs to us. They don’t know where they can get water (…) People are even removing it (the water) from the heating systems to be able to wash their hands,” says Wade, who also explains the work the organization is doing on the ground.
Hospital supplies ‘almost totally exhausted’
With the supplies in hospitals “almost totally depleted”Right now, he says, the top priority is “getting more supplies to hospitals on the front lines as soon as possible.”
“Many of these hospitals are in these combat zones. Their needs are increasing as they receive wounded, but their supply chains have been interrupted. We are in direct communication with many of these hospitals. They have confirmed to us that they have received dozens of wounded, in some cases more than 100, and they have told us that they are at risk of running out of essential medicines and supplies and not being able to continue treating patients,” he explains.
“They risk running out of essential medicines and supplies and being unable to continue treating patients“
From a Mariupol hospital, the doctor Evgeny Dubrov explained to the Associated Press two days ago that the toilets continue “working without electricity”, that they have problems with supplies and that there are not enough painkillers. “We have been working tirelessly for more than a week, some even for more days,” says the doctor.
““We continue to work without electricity”“
In that hospital center, in which the health workers have come to use the light of mobile phones to illuminate, Svyatoslav, a wounded Ukrainian soldier also told AP: “I didn’t understand what had happened, (there was) an explosion and my vision started to blur. I kept crawling and realized it was a leg, but I didn’t know if I had a leg or not. Then I turned around and saw my leg. Seryoga (a colleague) put a tourniquet on me. Afraid, I was very afraid.” Some of his comrades have died in recent days.
In addition to the direct consequences of the conflict, the urgent medical needs that the population had are still there. There are people who need insulin or other treatments for chronic diseases, such as hemodialysis, or pregnant women who need access to a safe delivery, for example. However, “access to medical care is interrupted”they say from MSF, and this can lead to serious complications or, in the worst cases, death, explains Wade, who calls for “an immediate solution for the population” that continues in that Ukrainian city.
One of the most tragic situations that have transpired in recent hours on Mauripol took place precisely in a hospital in the city, after a Russian shell will hit a child of only 18 months while he was at home. The minor’s parents immediately left for medical help and ran to the hospital with the little boy wrapped in a blanket, but the paramedics were finally unable to do anything to save his life.
Doctors Without Borders: “Humanitarian corridors are not enough”
After the “heartbreaking” reports that MSF receives from its staff trapped in Mariupol, the organization closely follows the information on the agreements for the safe passage of civilians and stresses that “humanitarian corridors are not enough”.
“Each situation is different, but in our decades of experience working in war contexts we know that single humanitarian corridors can be useful, but they are not enough,” says Stephen Cornish, director general of the same NGO. “We have witnessed, on several occasions, how civilians were encouraged to exit through civilian evacuation corridors with time limits, and how, all those who could not or did not want to flee, were met with extraordinary and indiscriminate violence unleashed against everyone and against everything that was left behind, including many doctors and civilians, “he adds.
MSF calls on all soldiers fighting in the conflict “respect the rules of war; that they take all necessary precautions to avoid harming the civilian population” and that they be considered as civilians at all times and in all places in Ukraine. It also emphasizes that the safe passage of all those who wish to and can escape from Mariupol and war-affected areas inside Ukraine, “regardless of the existence of corridors humanitarian or ceasefires” that may be established temporarily.
Two failed evacuation attempts
It was planned that two hours after the declaration of the ceasefirethat is, starting at 11:00 (peninsular time in Spain) the second attempt to evacuate the civilian population of Mariúpol “by municipal buses” will begin and that the exit in personal transport will also be allowed, as long as it is accompanied to the main scroll column.
The Mariupol City Council advanced on its Telegram channel that the humanitarian evacuation route would be practically the same than the one announced on Saturday: it would end to the west, in Zaporizhia, after traveling through Nikolskoye, Pologi and Orejov along some 200 kilometers of route.
However, the second evacuation attempt could not be carried out either. Ukrainians and Russians have once again accused each other of breaking the ceasefire. The civilian population had prepared to leave, but they had to back down in scenes of chaos due to the bombing, although, according to RNE, hundreds of residents of the almost half a million inhabitants would have managed to leave Mariúpol.
The mayor of the city assures that the Russians “have deceived them, like yesterday”and that the situation in Mariúpol is desperate due to the lack of water, electricity and heating.
Both evacuation attempts have ended in complete failure in both Mariupol and Volnovakha, after Russia and Ukraine accuse each other of breaking the ceasefire temporary in force around these two towns, where approximately 425,000 people live in deplorable conditions, according to NGOs.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which planned to deploy on the evacuation routes to guarantee the safety of civilians, has explained in a statement in recent hours that “remains in contact with the parties to facilitate exits” in the midst of a “disheartening” situation.
“Any initiative that gives civilians a respite from so much violence will be welcome,” said the ICRC, who has also called for the humanitarian corridors intended to move the population out of danger “are well planned” and in agreement with the parties to the conflict.
Mariupol is a strategic port city, on the coast of the Sea of Azov, where some 450,000 people live. Capturing the town would allow Russia to connect its forces in the east of the country with those stationed on the Crimean peninsula.
Volnovakha, meanwhile, is located near Ukraine’s former front line with Russian-backed separatists, the so-called line of contact, some 60 kilometers from Donetsk. About 20,000 people live there.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.