LONDON, Sept 12 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - The U.N. World Food Programme (WFP) has started distributing food to eastern Ukraine where Ukrainian forces have been battling pro-Russian separatists, in its first operation in the country.
WFP said in a statement on Friday that it had already handed out 10,000 rations, enough to feed 2,000 people for five days. It said it planned to feed as many as 120,000 people over the next six months at a cost of $15 million.
Food boxes containing canned food such as meat, fish and vegetables as well as biscuits, jam and tea are being distributed in transit centres and shelters in Donetsk and Luhansk, WFP said.
More than 3,000 people have been killed in five months of fighting in eastern Ukraine. The conflict has uprooted more than 310,000 people, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR.
The warring sides have been broadly observing a ceasefire since last Friday, despite sporadic violations.
Fighting began in east Ukraine in mid-April, after Russia annexed Crimea following the removal of a Ukrainian president sympathetic to Moscow and Kiev shifted policy towards the European Union.
WFP said violence in the last few months primarily in and around the cities of Luhansk and Donetsk had significantly disrupted food supplies and basic services.
"While many have remained, thousands of other families have fled their homes at short notice, often without anything even for the journey," said Carlo Scaramella of WFP.
As part of its emergency operation in Ukraine, WFP said it would launch a food voucher scheme, targeting 10,000 displaced people by mid-October.
Worth nearly $500,000, the food vouchers will allow those in need to choose and buy food available locally, it said.
Separately, the EU is giving 5 million euros in humanitarian aid and 17 million euros in development aid to Ukraine to be spent on food, shelter, water, healthcare and psycho-social help, the European Commission's humanitarian arm ECHO said on Friday. (Reporting by Katie Nguyen; Editing by Ros Russell)
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