Lethal cold threatens Ukrainian war victims

from Norwegian Refugee Council
Published on 05 Jan 2016

The Norwegian Refugee Council is concerned for the many elderly affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine, as temperatures drop below minus 20 degrees. Conflict combined with severe winter weather and snow, makes it difficult to reach civilians living close to the frontline.

At the beginning of the new year, temperatures in the Luhansk region in Ukraine fell below minus 20 degrees Celsius and strong wind and snow storms are expected across the country.

“Repeated ceasefire violations and worsening weather conditions make it increasingly difficult to reach vulnerable civilians with necessary relief. There is a need for more humanitarian assistance and better access to disputed areas”, said Secretary General of the Norwegian Refugee Council Jan Egeland. A recent assessment conducted by NRC Shelter specialists in communities along the frontline in Luhansk region revealed that only 60% of people are prepared for winter. People with access to central gas supply, are suffering from the high price of gas. The price has increased almost three times since May 2015. People without access to gas, are struggling to afford the necessary coal and firewood.

“There are villages in Luhansk region where there is no gas supply. In some places the gas pipelines have been damaged due to the conflict, other remote villages have never been connected to the network. Many people are trying to stock up on firewood and coal, but not everyone has the necessary resources. The price of firewood and coal is very high, and almost out-of-reach for pensioners or unemployed civilians”, said Country Director for the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Christopher Mehley.

NRC is distributing coal, firewood, radiators, as well as winter clothes and blankets to the most vulnerable families, prioritizing areas close to the front-line in Luhansk region. “We are particularly concerned for the many elderly in the area. The consequences may be severe or even lethal, if they are not able to heat their homes”, said Mehley.

In September and October there was a renewed commitment to the ceasefire agreement in eastern Ukraine. This brought a welcomed calm for the estimated 800,000 people living along both sides of the frontline. However, over the past month, there have been new ceasefire violations and shelling in some frontline communities.

Notes to Editors:

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) is a humanitarian organisation working in more than 25 countries globally, including Ukraine. For more information see www.nrc.no

Photos from the recent snow in eastern Ukraine are available here for free use: https://nrc.smugmug.com/Country-Programs/Ukraine/2015/Ukraine-snow/n-JPv...

B-roll and transcript with interviews with people in eastern Ukraine from November are available here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/06xwk4m82oir7k0/AADW9iryJRbY45qPV6jhxHkaa?dl=0

If you are interested in interviews or more information, photos or video, please contact:

Ane Høyem, Media Adviser, +47 97565108, ane.hoyem@nrc.no Tiril Skarstein, Media Adviser, +47 90569287, tiril.skarstein@nrc.no