Kharkiv had a population of 1.8 million before the war. It has partially emptied over the past few weeks.
“The city now looks rather deserted. There are few people in the streets and most stores are closed,” says Michel-Olivier Lacharité, MSF head of mission in Ukraine. “There are still a few pharmacies and markets open so that people can find food, but the main market in Kharkiv is closed."
Since the conflict began, the bombing has been continuous, particularly in the northern part of the city.
"Bombing still happens all day long, along a seemingly random pattern. Sirens warn people when it happens. There is also a warning system on smartphones. These bells ring several times a day. It is quite anxiety-inducing," Lacharité says.
For the 350,000 people who, according to local authorities, stayed in the city, the underground stations are the safest place.
"There are three lines in the city of Kharkiv,” says Lacharité, “and most, if not all of the stations are in use." Each station hosts about 100 people during the day, a number that can easily double or triple at night. "Most of the people who live in the underground are elderly or vulnerable. They have been there for more than 40 days in the cold and humidity, sleeping in tents.”