Geneva (AFP) - The UN's World Food Programme announced Friday the launch of its first food aid operation in Ukraine, saying it had begun distributing rations in the country's conflict-torn east.
"In its first operation in Ukraine, the United Nations World Food Programme is rolling out food assistance for vulnerable people affected by the conflict, distributing food in transit centres and public shelters in Donetsk and Lugansk in East Ukraine," WFP said in a statement.
The UN agency said it was responding to a request for assistance from the Ukraine government and that it aimed to help feed as many as 120,000 people over the next six months at a cost of $15 million.
"The fighting in the last few months primarily in the cities of Lugansk and Donetsk and surrounding areas has significantly disrupted access to food and basic services," explained Carlo Scaramella, WFP deputy regional director in eastern Europe.
"While many have remained, thousand of other families have fled their homes at short notice, often without anything even for the journey,” he said in the statement.
Since the beginning of September, WFP and its partners have already distributed 10,000 daily food rations, or enough to feed 2,000 people for five days, it said.
The organisation aims to rapidly increase its reach, and said it expects by the end of the month to be able to deliver 90,000 daily rations, or enough to feed 18,000 people for five days.
WFP said it was mainly helping people displaced from their homes suffering from serious medical conditions, along with pregnant women, nursing mothers, the elderly and large, vulnerable families.
More than 310,000 people have been internally displaced inside Ukraine since the conflict erupted in April, WFP said, citing official numbers from the UN refugee agency, and stressing that the actual number "may be at least double that".