Humanitarian Bulletin : Ukraine Issue 01 | 01 - 31 August 2015
Overview of humanitarian access and challenges
Humanitarian organizations are facing the major challenge of accessing the most vulnerable of an estimated 5 million people affected by the conflict that began in April 2014 in eastern Ukraine. Access challenges vary from security concerns, bureaucratic impediments, and logistical and legal constraints. An estimated 2 million people living in areas along the contact line between Government forces and armed groups are the most vulnerable and the highest priority group in terms of aid operations. Half of these people are estimated to be living in Government-controlled areas (GCAs), while the remainder live in non-GCAs (NGCAs). Fire exchanges and shelling in many hot-spot locations along the contact line are constantly endangering the lives of many civilians and exacerbating their suffering. Their plight has been compounded by their inability to flee to safety, particularly across the contact line (from NGCAs to GCAs) due to complicated procedures on population movements in the area. This has been further aggravated by the lack of social services, disruption of trade, lack of access to pensions and other social-benefit payments, and lack of functioning banking systems in NGCAs. People living in GCAs have been similarly affected and cannot access basic services.
Most of the 2 million people have received limited or no assistance from humanitarian agencies, as aid organizations have been unable to reach these people due to insecurity and bureaucratic hurdles.
An additional 2 million people in NGCAs, further away from the contact line, are another priority group for humanitarian organizations, as they are trying to eke out living while facing similar everyday challenges of a lack of social-welfare payments, livelihood opportunities and functioning banking systems.
Humanitarian agencies are also concerned about the protracted displacement of 1.4 million people in GCAs. About 60 per cent of the registered IDPs are elderly people and about 13 per cent are children. Meeting their needs requires interventions by humanitarian and recovery/development actors in the immediate and longer term.
The humanitarian community has repeatedly advocated to all parties to the conflict to guarantee free and unimpeded humanitarian access, including limiting bureaucratic procedures to the strict minimum. Under international humanitarian law (IHL) and customary IHL, parties to the conflict are responsible for facilitating access for humanitarian organizations to affected people. Intense discussions are under way at various levels to resolve the issue and find practical solutions, focusing on the humanitarian imperative of providing assistance to the people who need it most.
Positive steps have been undertaken to engage with the Government of Ukraine on facilitating access to vulnerable people, and on bringing various laws and by-laws and the temporary order on population movements and movement of humanitarian cargo and personnel in line with the laws of Ukraine and international humanitarian principles. The Government recently announced many positive changes in terms of facilitating humanitarian cargo to NGCAs, including opening two new crossing lines, simplifying procedures, ensuring fast-track processes and dedicated lines for humanitarian cargo, and establishing staging areas away from the contact line.
The Government also announced that special humanitarian logistics centres will be established near operating crossing points, from which civilians from NGCAs will be able to access various services. However, concerns remain, partly because these logistics centres are located in insecure areas.
Aid organizations have been unable to reach vulnerable people in NGCAs since 21 July.
Aid convoys have been suspended since then. This came after 14 July, when the de-facto authorities in NGCAs of Donetska oblast issued a decree regarding registration to all aid agencies operating in the area.
The Logistics Cluster leads, organizes and facilitates inter-agency aid convoys to NGCAs. However, since the suspension on 21 July, the cluster has more than 5,000 metric tonnes (MT) of humanitarian assistance in the pipeline, including food, shelter and non-food relief supplies, pending to be delivered to thousands of people in NGCAs. More than 16,000 MT of relief aid are in the pipeline for delivery to NGCAs up to the end of 2015, according to the Logistics Cluster.