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GENEVA: The Ukraine conflict is stretching the entire humanitarian system and could have lasting impacts on the ability of organisations to tackle emergencies worldwide, the Red Cross warned Tuesday.

The war, now six months old, has pushed people to “a critical breaking point,” said Francesco Rocca, president of the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC).

“The devastating knock-on effects are only growing as the conflict drags on, with rising food and fuel prices and worsening food crises,” he said in a statement.

The Red Cross, which now counts more than 100,000 local volunteers and staff in Ukraine and nearby countries, is continuing to scale up the humanitarian need.

The organisation warned that “even if the conflict were to end tomorrow, it will take years to repair the damage to cities and homes and the impact on families.”

Soaring inflation and shortages of essential products like fuel and food in Ukraine and neighbouring countries have left people struggling to afford basic supplies.

And needs will only grow as the weather chills in the weeks ahead.

“It will be the hardest winter,” Maksym Dotsenko, head of the Ukrainian Red Cross, said in a virtual press briefing.

EU ready to support Ukraine ‘for the long term’: Macron

Russia’s February 24 invasion of Ukraine – one of the world’s biggest grain exporters – has already contributed to a dire food shortage now confronting some of the poorest parts of the globe.

Despite efforts to restore Ukraine grain deliveries across the Black Sea, the country’s grain exports are down 46 percent so far this year, the IFRC said.

“This massive drop is having a major impact on the Greater Horn of Africa, where more than 80 million are experiencing extreme hunger – the worst food crises in the last 70 years,” it said.

Birgitte Bischoff Ebbesen, IFRC’s regional director for Europe and Central Asia, warned that aid needs were rising globally amid painful “ripple effects” of the conflict.

“The crisis has stretched the entire humanitarian system, and put it under tremendous stress,” she told the briefing.

“It will have a lasting impact on the capacity of humanitarian organisations and donors to respond to emergencies elsewhere.”

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