Humanitarian Bulletin: Ukraine | Issue 21 | 1 – 31 August 2017
• Start of school season marked by sporadic clashes
• Winterization efforts scale-up as cold season approaches
• Civilians continue paying the highest price
• Protection concerns continue to impact the most vulnerable
• Humanitarian Response Plan revised amidst increasing needs and limited funding
• Ukraine commemorates the World Humanitarian Day
Fragile ceasefire marks the start of school year
Millions of students across Ukraine returned to school on 1 September. The once joyful event for thousands of children living in the conflict-torn Donetsk and Luhansk provinces, particularly those along the ‘contact line’, has long been replaced by fear of insecurity and psychological distress. By the end of June, the conservative estimates of the Education Cluster suggested that some 650,000 students and teachers in more than 3,400 educational facilities suffer from widespread and cumulative impact of the conflict.
On the eve of opening of school year, a recently conducted assessment by UNICEF suggests that only in the Government controlled areas (GCA), there are approximately 42,000 school-age children and 290 operational education facilities within the 15 km of the ‘contact line’. The assessment concluded that on both sides of the ‘contact line’ schools remain closed due to impacts of the conflict compounded with multiple factors. In nonGovernment controlled areas (NGCA) of Donetsk province alone, there are indications that more than 100 schools remain closed due to unrepaired damage to the facilities, risk of continued shelling and population movement. In GCA, the Education Cluster estimates that approximately 25 schools remain closed. Although some schools remain closed, it appears that a majority of students are able to enrol and attend other operational primary and secondary schools. The risks faced by school children along both sides of the ‘contact line’ are multifaceted. Further to continued daily clashes, there is a significant risk of mine presence and unexploded ordnance. In addition, damage or collapse of infrastructure and public transportation in many locations have led to further isolation of vulnerable communities. This isolation coupled with conflict and economic impacts are affecting the quality of access to education for the most vulnerable children.
As the conflict continues unabated, parties to the conflict have recognized the necessity to halt clashes to ensure ‘safe’ return to schools. At the Minsk-led Trilateral Contact Group (TCG) meeting, an agreement was reached for yet another ceasefire, which was enforced on 25 August. This has led to a relative decrease in the number of security incidents in critical areas of concern. However, reports suggest that sporadic local clashes continue to be witnessed in both provinces, leading to an assumption that similar to previous cessation of hostilities, the ‘return to school’ ceasefire may well be short-lived. In his statement issued on 28 August, the UN Secretary-General welcomed the initiative and called for its sustainability, urging all parties to fully abide by its terms to protect the civilians.
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