• The Humanitarian Response Plan for Ukraine was officially launched on 17 February
• Temporary closure of two checkpoints on the ‘contact line’ results in long queues at the remaining checkpoints
The UN and NGOs appeal for US$ 298 million to cover humanitarian needs in 2016
Despite its absence from global headlines, fighting in Donbas has intensified since the end of January adding to the humanitarian needs of 3.1 m people directly impacted by the conflict. The Humanitarian Country Team, together with the Government of Ukraine, has appealed to donors to generously donate a total of US$ 298 million to cover the needs of 2.5 million of the most vulnerable people targeted by the 2016 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) for Ukraine. The HRP, along with the Humanitarian Needs Overview (HNO), was launched jointly with the Government of Ukraine on 17 February.
Based on a thorough analysis of all information available, the HRP looks into the priorities the international community and national partners engaged in humanitarian action intend to carry out in 2016. Two years into the conflict, people are still struggling to cope with insecurity, destruction, trauma, the disruption of basic services and an inability to work. They need protection, access to water, food, heating, health services, schools and markets (see Graph 1). While emergency response remains at the core of humanitarian action, the HRP 2016 also emphasizes the need for early recovery interventions and building the resilience of affected people to prevent a further degradation of the situation. The plan also appeals for a robust, operational recovery response, which falls beyond the realm of the humanitarian response plan. The response is contingent on the Government shouldering its primary duty-bearer responsibility and on all parties to the conflict providing unimpeded access to all people in need.
The HRP is available in Ukrainian, Russian and English versions and can be accessed at https://www.humanitarianresponse.info/en/operations/ukraine/document/2016-ukraine-humanitarian-response-plan.
On and off closure of checkpoints impacts freedom of movement
The hardship and risks that civilians face when crossing the ‘contact line’ between government-controlled areas (GCAs) and non-government controlled areas (NGCAs) remains a major concern. Hundreds of thousands of civilians, mostly elderly, regularly cross the frontline in order to receive social payments, and access basic services, including health care and markets. Families have been divided, and people go back and forth to take care of family members, or to look after property left in NGCAs. In February, the Ukrainian State Border Guard Service registered almost 410,000 people crossings through five checkpoints, the same number of crossings as in January but significantly less than in December (700,000). A sharp increase in fighting after the New Year holidays forced people to avoid travelling over the frontline.
In February, the situation further deteriorated when the Government temporarily closed the Mariinka and Zaytseve checkpoints in Donetska Oblast for security reasons. This resulted in a backlog of vehicles and pedestrians attempting to cross the remaining two checkpoints, with some forced to wait as long as 36 hours on the road, in unbearable conditions. According to the State Border Service, on 18 February, at Novotroitske checkpoint, a queue of cars waiting to cross the line of contact stretched for several kilometres. However, the third weekend in February has witnessed a relative subsiding of military activities which allowed reopening Mariinka and Zaytseve checkpoints, on 20 and 22 February respectively, and stabilising the traffic of people. The Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) continues to call on the Government to limit closure of checkpoints to prevent hardship for civilians.
Four civilians were killed on 10 February when their minivan drove over a landmine as they sought to avoid the long queue or vehicles near Mariinka checkpoint. According to Ukrainian military sources, the vehicle pulled off the road ignoring warning signs.
A new concern: suspension of social payments to IDPs
A new source of concern in February was the Government’s announcement to suspend social payments for a significant number of IDPs. On 21 February, Prime Minister Arsenyi Yatsenyuk informed of suspension of social payments to 150,000 IDPs due to anecdotal occurrences of fraud. The Ministry of Social Policy sent a letter “On strengthening control over payments” to all social protection offices to check all IDP registration certificates. Along with the letter, there was a list of IDPs (provided by Security Service of Ukraine [SSU] and the State Border Guard Service [SBGS]) who should be excluded from IDPs lists. The deadline for implementation is 4 March, though there is confusion as to who will be included in this list.
A group of 16 Ukrainian civil society organisations involved in humanitarian aid issued an appeal to the Ukrainian government, asking the Ministry of Social Policy to immediately stop suspending IDPs certificates on the basis of data provided by the SSU and the SBGS as such practice is “clearly in violation of the Ukrainian law”. The signatories to appeal further asked the Ministry to create a single database of IDPs, a corresponding statute as well as to make the registration procedure more transparent.
Harsh critique at Parliamentary hearings on IDPs
The alarming news about suspension of social payments to IDPs came only days after the Parliamentary hearings in Verkhovna Rada on 17 February dedicated to “the human rights situation of the internally displaced people and citizens of Ukraine living in the temporarily occupied territory of Ukraine and the territory uncontrolled by the Ukrainian authorities in the area of the anti-terrorist operation”. The hearings hosted by the Parliamentary Committee on Human Rights, National Minorities and International Relations were attended by 450 participants and 45 speakers, including MPs, representatives of central and local government authorities, UN, NGOs, the diplomatic community, IDPs, etc.
Despite of the adoption of the Law of Ukraine “On amendments to certain laws of Ukraine to strengthen the guarantees of the rights and freedoms of internally displaced persons” in December, Government and Ministers were heavily criticized for neglecting the needs and rights of IDPs, for the absence of strategies and budget allocations, fostering separation of NGCAs and not treating equally Ukrainian citizens living there and excessive bureaucratic impediments. Speakers repeatedly highlighted the need to develop and implement state policy to deal with humanitarian crisis and IDPs as well as need to create a governmental body responsible for coordination of humanitarian affairs given that the Donbas Recovery Agency does not have the mandate nor capacities to address conflict-affected people’s needs.
Among the speakers, the UN was represented by the Resident Coordinator, Neal Walker and the Head of the Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (HRMMU), Fiona Frazer. During the presentation, HRMMU made a particular focus on the human rights violations of people residing in NGCAs, the absence of rule of law there, the situation in Crimea as well as on residual obligations of the Ukrainian Government towards all of its citizens regardless their place of residence. HRMMU, UNHCR and others also provided recommendations on the topic of the hearings, some of which may be considered for inclusion to the text of the Resolution of the Parliament that is to be adopted in March
Conflict affects over half a million children
The conflict in Ukraine has deeply impacted the lives of some 580,000 children living in NGCAs and close to the ‘contact line’. Of these, 200,000, or one in three, need psychosocial support. UNICEF in Ukraine, stressed the importance of reaching these children urgently to meet their physical as well as psychological needs.
Over 215,000 children are displaced in other parts of the country and need a fuller integration in their new learning environment. One out of five schools in the conflict areas has been damaged or destroyed. To help rectify the situation, UNICEF provided psychosocial support to over 46,000 children and trained 5,000 teachers and psychologists to identify signs of distress among children. Additionally, the Children’s Fund distributed education kits and school supplies to over 200,000 children and helped with classroom repairs.
As temperatures plummet, fuel shortages and the high price of coal are leaving civilians, including children, at risk of respiratory infections. Lack of access to health services and a shortage of medicines are threatening more disease outbreaks. In response to the polio outbreak in 2015, UNICEF and WHO technically supported the all-Ukrainian vaccination campaign and procured polio vaccines for 4.7 m children. Administrative coverage for immunization Round 3, targeting all children 2 months to 10 years, was reported at 80.3 per cent as of 29 February.
According to OHCHR reports, in 2015, more than 20 children were killed and over 40 injured. Of those, 28 casualties, or 47 per cent, were caused by mines and unexploded ordnance. UNICEF reached nearly 280,000 children with information on the risks of landmines and unexploded ordnance. The UN partners calls all parties to the conflict to ensure safe movement and unhindered humanitarian access to help all in need, and particularly the most vulnerable, including children.
Humanitarian Response Plan 2016:
13 per cent funded
The official tracking system for donation to the HRP 2016 indicate that the operation received only 0.4 per cent of the USD 298 million appealed for. Many generous donations are yet to be recorded, and this complicates reporting and tracking. Indications received by OCHA from various sources point to a total of about US$39 pledged or disbursed to date, or to 13 per cent of the total HRP requirements.
An appeal has been made to donors and partners to reflect contributions pledged, disbursed and received at https://fts.unocha.org/pageloader.aspx?page=submit-reportform
The Government of the Russian Federation dispatched a convoy to NGCAs during February with more than 1,000 MT of relief supplies, according to the Russian Emergency Ministry (EMERCOM).
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.