As Crisis in Ukraine Grows, Aid Agencies Rush in Supplies

RZESZOW, Poland (AP) -- As Russia's invasion of Ukraine enters its fourth week, aid agencies continue to ramp up their efforts to bring much-needed relief supplies to civilians affected by the fighting, and also to over 3 million refugees who have fled the country since the conflict began.

Rzeszow, the largest city in southeastern Poland, roughly 100 kilometres from the Ukrainian border, has become a humanitarian aid hub for the region. By road and by air, aid supplies -- including food, blankets, solar lamps, warm clothing, mattresses, jerrycans and plastic sheeting -- continue to arrive in a massive warehouse run by the U.N. refugee agency, UNHCR, next to the airport outside Rzezsow.

"What we have been doing is bringing more people into the country, bringing more assistance into the country, working with partners to make sure that we can work effectively, to do what we can to help," said Matthew Saltmarsh, UNHCR spokesman.

Saltmarsh said the agency has received in the past month "over 300 million lots of donations" from the private sector and has managed to deliver some of the relief supplies to Ukraine. So far, the UNCHR has moved 22 trucks and soon plans to move another 10 with emergency supplies to the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, not far from the Polish border. Lviv has largely been spared the scale of destruction unfolding further east, becoming the first destination for many of those fleeing the country.

Some of the aid transported to the city has been unloaded and distributed there, Saltmarsh said, but the rest is waiting to go on when the security situation allows humanitarian assistance to reach the hardest-hit parts of the country, including the port city of Mariupol which has been besieged and subjected to punitive Russian attacks almost since the start of the war.

"That is obviously very worrying and a big challenge for the humanitarian community," he added.

Efforts are also being stepped up to assist the refugees, about half of them children, who have escaped over the past weeks to Poland and other countries bordering Ukraine.

Refugees now arriving in neighboring countries are "more vulnerable, in a more traumatic state" than those who came in the early days of the war, Saltmarsh said.

Kateryna Horiachko, who escaped from the area around the capital, Kyiv, said people there were "devastated."

"They lost their homes, they lost everything they had, they lost relatives...there is nothing left for (us) than (to) become refugees," added Horiachko, who arrived in Suceava, Romania, on Thursday.

Horiachko said her husband and parents remain in Ukraine and that she was hoping to find a way to support them.

"Economy in Ukraine is also ruined, people (are) now without work, without income and they need" support, she added.