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UN humanitarian chief Martin Griffiths says they are not leaving Ukraine and have set up an operations center in Geneva

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The United Nations humanitarian presence will remain in Ukraine and will work to expand and scale up their operations, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA)’s Martin Griffiths said Friday.

“The UN and its humanitarian partners, all those people I have the fortune to work with, are committed to continue and indeed to expand our presence. We had not left; we are not leaving Ukraine,” said Griffiths, OCHA’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator, during a briefing at UN headquarters in New York City.

Griffiths said that this year alone, the UN and its partners have delivered about 150 tons of assistance to the Donbas region. He noted that UN staff are “bunkered down at the moment,” but said they continue to expand efforts.

The expansion is accompanied by the establishment of an inter-agency operations center in Geneva, where Griffiths said he will be heading this weekend. He recalled UN Secretary-General António Guterres’ Thursday announcement of $20 million in humanitarian aid and said the funds would help support emergency operations along the contact line in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions.

He underscored the importance of allowing for safe access to UN workers in the region.

“We need the safe, unimpeded access and protection of our humanitarian workers and the deliveries that they will be doing, that they will be resuming, as soon as the security allows it to all areas of Ukraine affected by conflict,” Griffiths said.

The UN humanitarian chief also said they are currently facilitating the temporary relocation of nonessential UN staff and eligible family members within Ukraine for the purpose of their security and safety.

“There are no plans at the moment to relocate our staff outside the country, but we’ll continue, obviously, to evaluate the developing security situation,” Griffiths said.

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