GENEVA: The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says it is scaling up logistics arrangements in readiness for the delivery of aid to eastern Ukraine.
Laurent Corbaz, ICRC head of operations for Europe and Central Asia, called on Russia and the Ukraine to reach a quick agreement as distributing the aid "will take some time due to the complex logistics and security challenges involved".
The ICRC says Ukraine and Russia have asked it to distribute aid from their respective convoys sent to the area.
"As and when agreement is reached, we plan to deliver this humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict in eastern Ukraine, health facilities and other welfare organizations," said Corbaz. "People are struggling to cope with limited access to basic services such as water and electricity, so speed is of the essence."
A five-person ICRC team is already in the vicinity of the Russian convoy, currently parked in the Rostov region, and 15 more staff are on the way. Another ICRC team has deployed to Starobilsk, where a Ukrainian aid convoy of around 50 trucks arrived on August 15.
"We still need assurances from all parties to the conflict that our staff will be allowed to perform their tasks safely and with due respect for our humanitarian principles," added Corbaz.
In support of its activities in eastern Ukraine, the ICRC says it has received financial support from Finland, Switzerland, U.K., U.S. and the Red Cross Societies of Canada and Japan.
According to the U.N. World Health Organisation (WHO) the continuing conflict around Donetsk and Luhansk has affected nearly four million residents, including 156,000 internally displaced people.
A US$14 million UN humanitarian response plan aims to restore access to healthcare for the region: "We are tailoring our response activities to care for each of these communities, and to prepare in advance for the coming of winter, which will only exacerbate the health crisis people will face," said Dorit Nitzan, WHO's representative in Ukraine.
In a related move, the official Russian news agency ITAR-TASS reports Ukraine is requiring Aeroflot and Transaero to apply for permission every time the two airlines overfly the country. Read more: