In a press release issued earlier today, UNICEF noted that since September, thousands of people in war-torn Donetsk had been spending most of their days and nights in at least 12 bomb shelters with little or no access to water, hygiene, sanitation or food. Among them, the UN agency added, were an estimated 1,000 children who regularly sought refuge from the heavy shelling. “The most vulnerable are those who are forced to seek refuge in unsanitary, crowded and freezing cellars and bomb shelters, children living on the streets, and those who come from poor families or whose homes have been severely damaged,” UNICEF Representative in Ukraine, Giovanna Barberis, explained. “UNICEF reminds all parties to the conflict in Ukraine to keep children out of harm’s way,” Ms. Barberis continued. “We also urge the international community to act now to provide the thousands of children affected with the basic assistance they need.” In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full- scale conflict in the east. A cease-fire and peace plan for eastern Ukraine was signed in the Belarussian capital of Minsk on 5 September, but remains fragile. The situation has since continuously deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country’s unity, territorial integrity and stability. Ms. Barberis reiterated her concern for the safety of Ukraine’s children – including the 1.7 million affected by the conflict – in a separate phone conversation with UNICEF spokesperson, Christophe Boulierac, during a press conference in Geneva. She noted that the recent shelling in Mariupol, which claimed the lives of two children and injured another seven, had further underlined the urgent need for an end to the violence and the provision of a scaled up humanitarian response. In addition, she said, Ukraine’s children were increasingly vulnerable to psychological damage as well as infection from various diseases due to the lack of hygiene and vaccines. Answering a question from a reporter, she admitted that barely 50 per cent of the 7.9 million Ukrainian children had been properly vaccinated against polio, rendering them susceptible to contagion. Also speaking from Geneva, Rupert Colville, a spokesperson for the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), revealed the latest casualty figures gleaned from UN data. As of 26 January, he said, a total of at least 5,187 people had been killed in the continuing conflict and 11,550 had been wounded.
Likewise the increase in blood flow usually associated with exercise was virtually absent in those walking along the busy shopping street. And while the arteries of those walking in the park became 24 per cent less stiff, they improved by just 4.6 per cent for people on Oxford Street.“These findings are important as for many people, such as the elderly or those with chronic disease, very often the only exercise they can do is to walk,” said senior author Fan Chung, Professor of Respiratory Medicine and Head of Experimental Studies Medicine at National Heart & Lung Institute at Imperial College London.“Our research suggests that we might advise older adults to walk in green spaces, away from built-up areas and pollution from traffic.“For people living in the inner city it may be difficult to find areas where they can go and walk, away from pollution. It shows that we can’t really tolerate the levels of air pollution that we currently find on our busy streets.”Previous research has found that diesel exhaust fumes, particularly fine particulate matter has been associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and death, and can cause a worsening of diseases of the airways, such as asthma.It is estimated that pollution is linked to 40,000 early deaths in Britain each year, and the government has pledged to ban the sale of diesel cars by 2040, which are a major contributor to urban toxins.Responding to the study, Prof Kevin McConway, Emeritus Professor of Applied Statistics, at The Open University, said: The research does convince me, though, that poor air quality does play an important role in the short-term benefit one can get from taking a walk. “But perhaps that’s not all that’s going on, and I look forward to reading about future similar studies in other places.” Pollution wipes out the benefits of walking, a new study suggests. Researchers from Imperial College London found that the toxic air in built-up city centres prevents the positive effects on the lungs and heart which are usually gained from exercise.Although the experiment was carried out in the over 60s, the scientists say the effects could apply to other groups, and have called for stricter air quality limits, and greater access to green spaces.To determine the impact of pollution on exercise, researchers asked 119 people to take a two-hour stroll through London’s Hyde Park and also Oxford Street, a busy shopping area.Levels of black carbon, nitrogen dioxide and fine particulate matter in Hyde Park are typically well within healthy boundaries but air in Oxford Street regularly breaches dangerous pollution levels, as defined by the World Health Organisation.The researchers found that everyone in the study benefited from a stroll in the park, with their lung capacity improving within just one hour, an effect which lasted for 24 hours for many people.By comparison, a walk along Oxford Street barely registered any improvement at all. However Prof Ian Colbeck, Professor of Environmental Science, at the University of Essex, said people should not be deterred from exercising, even if they live in the city.“This paper highlights the risks to health by walking along polluted roads, for the over sixties with specific pre-existing medical conditions. “However we know from other research that for the vast majority of the population the benefits of any physical activity far outweigh any harm caused by air pollution except for the most extreme air pollution concentrations. “It’s important to that people continue to exercise. In the UK physical inactivity is the fourth largest cause of disease and mortality and contributes to around 37,000 premature deaths in England every year.”The authors say that inner-city stress could account for some of the physiological differences seen between the two settings, with the increased noise and activity of Oxford Street having an effect.The findings were published in The Lancet. Want the best of The Telegraph direct to your email and WhatsApp? Sign up to our free twice-daily Front Page newsletter and new audio briefings. read more