• After the closure of “Zaytseve” checkpoint, several appeals have been made to all parties to stop fighting where civilians are waiting in queues or reside, and for more checkpoints to be opened.
• In 2015, the UN delivered around 2,900 MT of humanitarian aid to NGCAs of Donetsk and Luhansk.
• Humanitarian Response Plan 2016 appeals for US $298 million to help 2.5 million people who most need life-saving humanitarian assistance.
Increased hardship for war-affected civilians
Closure of a checkpoint is aggravating the situation
The queues to cross the frontline have not gotten shorter. The closure of “Zaitseve” checkpoint on 3 February owing to insecurity increased the flux of people in other locations. There are indications that other checkpoints could be closed. The people crossing are Ukrainian citizens who travel to access affordable medication and food, access their bank accounts and social entitlements, including pensions, to ensure linkages with family and take care of property in the areas controlled by the armed groups. These provisions also affect people living in the areas near the ‘contact line’.
Several appeals have been made to all parties to stop fighting and targeting areas where civilians are waiting in queues or reside, and for more checkpoints to be opened. Proportionality is a key factor. Should there be a need to close certain transport corridors, it is important to ensure that alternative options are explored and new safe passages are established to ensure that civilians can move freely, especially if they need to flee from the area of heightened hostilities. With the increase in shelling this will also increase the exposure to mines and unexploded ordnances. Experience shows that when the checkpoints are closed, people find other ways to cross, often where the risks for UXOs are higher, as was seen last year with a bus being blown up.
On a more positive note, work is ongoing to open the ‘Zolote’ checkpoint in Luhanska oblast on 12 February. Although there are logistic concerns with regards to the possibility for trucks to pass, as the road and infrastructure conditions are far from ideal, should this plan came into effect it would help reduce some of the hardship civilians are facing.
The December inter-agency assessment reconfirmed that many of the people crossing are elderly and vulnerable. The team recommended to immediately increase the number of crossing points, especially in Luhanska oblast; significantly simplify procedures; establish clear responsibility for security of civilians at checkpoints as trenches do not offer enough protection in case of shelling; fast track the elderly, disabled and children; increase the staffing, opening hours at checkpoints; step up public awareness and complaint mechanisms; waive restrictions of the weight and amount of goods transported, and waive all requirements for civilians residing along the contact line. Local authorities should also ensure the provision of services, mine risk education, demarcation and removal of mines and guarantee unfettered access for humanitarian organisations wishing to support civilians into no-man’s land. State Emergency Service heating points at checkpoints has been welcomed. However, these facilities are usually far from the queues, making them impractical for persons with special needs or the elderly.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.