MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) delegation in Ukraine is calling on the parties to the Donbas conflict to protect civilians and key infrastructure amid the coronavirus pandemic, especially water supply facilities, the delegation's communication coordinator, Sanela Bajrambasic, has said in an interview.
"The ICRC has been reminding all weapon bearers to take precautionary measures under international humanitarian law to spare civilians and key infrastructure objects while engaging in armed hostilities. Civilians must be spared and the infrastructure, particularly the water supply, has to be protected", Bajrambasic said.
She added that just one attack on water supply facilities could be fatal for "a couple of millions" of people living in the conflict area, recalling that around 2.15 million people were living close to the contact line in Donbas, according to a UN estimate.
According to the ICRC official, if the water supply facilities experience a failure, these people would not be capable of implementing such basic measures to protect themselves from COVID-19 as "frequent hand-washing."
The ICRC has implemented large-scale urgent measures to provide humanitarian assistance to Ukrainian citizens in need amid the coronavirus pandemic, Bajrambasic went on to say.
"The ICRC has reacted rapidly and at the beginning of the last week we have sent 18 trucks with food, hygiene, medicaments for the treatment of chronic diseases, and our teams have been distributing those to the people on both sides of the contact lines. Only in Donetsk NGCA [non-government-controlled areas] we have reached over 5,000 people so far and approximately the same number have been gradually supported on the GCA [government-controlled areas] side of the contact line", the official said.
ICRC teams are delivering the aid to people's doors, so that they can collect the food and hygiene parcels themselves, in order to minimise contact, the official added.
She went on to say that hostilities in Ukraine have become even more intense despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, with at least one civilian death and four civilian injuries registered since the beginning of the outbreak.
"In Ukraine, despite the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict is on-going with the flare-ups more intensive than in the period before. Since the pandemic, at least four civilians were wounded in the crossfire, while this weekend one more civilian, a woman, died of conflict-related injuries. Moreover, last week, one civilian woman activated an explosive device with her bicycle, which left scars on her face and hands", Sanela Bajrambasic said.
The ICRC official added that the combination of increasing hostilities and preventive measures to tackle the coronavirus was making people in Ukraine "even more vulnerable."
"This particularly concerns the elderly who remain one of the categories of people the most affected by the conflict and living in the area of the contact line in Donbas", Bajrambasic went on to say.
Ukraine's COVID-19 case count is climbing toward 670, with 17 fatalities.