NEEDS & KEY FIGURES
The human toll of the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine is critical, with 4.4 million people affected by the crisis, of whom 3.4 million require humanitarian assistance and protection. The shelling of urban areas and civilian infrastructure means that 60 percent of the people living along the 457-kilometre ‘contact line’ are affected by shelling regularly, and almost 40 percent are affected every day. There is just under a million individual crossings of the ‘contact line’ each month, which is rapidly becoming one of the most mine-contaminated stretches of land in the world. Food insecurity has doubled since 2016, with 1.2 million people food insecure, and there are escalating cases of multi-drug resistant TB, HIV and even polio. HIV prevalence among pregnant women in conflict-affected oblasts is significantly higher than the national average.
These impacts are aggravated by Ukraine’s extremely harsh winter, severe restrictions on humanitarian access and limited livelihood opportunities for those affected by the crisis. As hopes of a political solution have waned, so have people’s savings and their ability to cope. Four years into the crisis, millions of people, including 1.6 million internally displaced persons (IDPs), half of whom are the elderly, are being forced to make impossible choices between food, medicine, shelter, heating or their children’s education. The unique demographics of the crisis in Ukraine is that the elderly make up almost 30 percent of people in need. Those who are most vulnerable are increasingly resorting to risky means to cope, including survival sex, trafficking and alcoholism.
Today, the dire humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine is protracted and complex, whilst the response is severely underfunded and largely forgotten by the international community.
Civilians continue to face serious risks to their safety, wellbeing and basic rights due to the active and ongoing hostilities, as well as the saturation of land mines and other explosive ordinances (UXOs). There is also urgent need for enhanced Government action to address problems arising from conflict-induced displacement. Peculiarities in IDP registration and verification of their status further complicates recovery efforts, as in many cases deregistration triggers a loss of social benefits, such as pensions rights. Policies can penalize the most vulnerable, particularly those living in the non-Government controlled areas (NGCA), creating physical and financial barriers to their entitlements. The negative impacts are compounded by the increase in the number of households relying on pensions and social benefits (including IDP payments) in 2017. This reliance is highest in the 5km zone along the ‘contact line’, which reflects lower employment rates potentially as a result of disruption to markets between the GCA and NGCA.
2 Shrinking access
The ability of people to access humanitarian goods and services has deteriorated in 2017. The Government has introduced additional controls on crossing the ‘contact line’, whilst the de facto authorities maintain severe restrictions on operations in the NGCA.
One of the main humanitarian partners was expelled from the NGCA in 2017. Freedom of movement in Luhanska Oblast remains severely constrained, with only one pedestrian crossing point servicing the entire region. Attempts to negotiate the opening of an additional crossing point have yet to achieve a breakthrough.
The de facto authorities, despite continuous dialogue, also continue to require the mandatory ‘registration’ of humanitarian actors and programmes. Despite the many challenges, humanitarian actors continue to deliver humanitarian programmes in the NGCA, but not to the scale required to meet the critical needs of the population.
3 Emergency assistance
In less than a year, food insecurity levels have doubled in both the GCA and NGCA, with up to 1.2 million people moderately or severely food insecure. Emergency shelter repairs, food assistance and emergency healthcare have become time-critical requisites for millions of people living on both sides of the ‘contact line’.
Fuel needs are acute, especially during the winter. As critical civilian infrastructure remains at the centre of hostilities, lifesaving water and electrical supplies are increasing needs.
Lack of access to healthcare caused by insecurity, disrupted transportation, and damage to or shutdown of facilities poses real threats to people’s survival, especially along the ‘contact line.’ Schools are regularly under fire near the ‘contact line’, even during children’s lessons. A rapid scale-up in the provision of emergency assistance is an immediate priority, especially for those who are most vulnerable, such as the elderly
4 Loss of livelihoods
The protracted nature of the crisis is taking its toll on the ability of people to cope. The conflict has paralyzed economic activity in Ukraine’s eastern industrial heartland, seriously impacting household wellbeing and living standards. Knock on effects have also increased poverty. The unemployment rate has skyrocketed, up to 18 percent in the conflict-affected oblasts in early 2017. IDPs and host communities face economic strain. The ‘contact line’ has become a de facto border with negative economic and social impacts on civilians.
Compounded with depleted savings, the population’s ability to access basic services has eroded, forcing many to adopt negative practices to make ends meet, including taking children out of school, survival sex and other illicit activities.
As the situation becomes more protracted, civilians have less ability to fend for themselves.
Humanitarian activities coupled with livelihood and recovery opportunities are urgently needed.
UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs:
To learn more about OCHA’s activities, please visit http://unocha.org/.