(Kyiv, 18 December 2020) At a time when many of us are facing the challenge of how to safely celebrate this holiday season amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, I want to draw attention to the additional hardship faced by the people of eastern Ukraine.
This year has been a year of increased suffering and disconnection for those living in the conflict-torn region. The almost complete closure of the crossing points in late March further split the communities already divided by the ‘contact line’, with the number of crossings last month representing only 3 per cent of the 1.1 million recorded in November 2019. For nine months, conflict-weary people on both sides have had almost no opportunity to visit or to connect with their families and friends. Hundreds of thousands of them have also not been able to access essential services and hard-earned pensions.
I have just returned from my most recent trip to eastern Ukraine, where I again encountered the adversities that people face because they are unable to cross the ‘contact line’ to reunite with their families and friends, go to a hospital, or withdraw much-needed cash. Those few people who do succeed in crossing struggle with biting wind, snow and icy conditions typical of the Ukrainian winter. The vast majority of them will not have any opportunity to reach the other side this holiday season to share precious moments with their families. The communities that once were connected are at risk of drifting more and more apart.
As we approach 2021 my hope is that we can put the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us to enable people to reconnect with one another. I yearn to see freedom of movement across the ‘contact line’ resume and further increase, facilitated by the opening of two new crossing points in Luhanska oblast and improved services at all crossing points. As we wish for sustainable peace in the new year, the United Nations and our humanitarian partners will continue to do our utmost to provide support to the population of eastern Ukraine.
For further information, please contact:
Lizaveta Zhuk, UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Ukraine, email@example.com, tel. +380 50 344 16 94