OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
Largely unnoticed, the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to be active, triggering humanitarian needs, claiming lives and resulting in damage to critical civilian infrastructure. More than two years of crisis have weakened people’s ability to cope. Protracted displacement is a challenge and lack of livelihood opportunities forces some IDPs to return to insecure areas. The Government’s approach towards citizens residing in areas beyond its control remains inconsistent, while the de facto authorities in NGCA continue to hamper humanitarian access to those most in need of assistance.
An estimated 3.8 million people in Eastern Ukraine are in need of humanitarian assistance, and their protection remains a key concern. Most of them, 2.9 million, or 200,000 more than in 2015, live in areas beyond Government control. Pockets of humanitarian needs also exist in Government controlled areas (GCA) of Donetska and Luhanska oblasts. Many people have also fl ed elsewhere, within Ukraine and abroad. Th e Government has officially registered some 1.7 million people as internally displaced people (IDPs). Of these, it is estimated that some 0.8 to 1 million reside more permanently in GCA, and require longer term solutions, while others, still registered as displaced, move frequently across the ‘contact line’. Many people have returned home in 2016, mostly to locations where there has been no fighting for over a year. More than one in 10 households living in NGCA had one or several members who have returned home this year. Some involuntary returns have also been recorded as some people could no longer afford housing and utility costs in urban areas in GCA.
Ongoing violence makes life difficult and dangerous for people living along the ‘contact line’. Since the beginning of the conflict, almost 23,000 people were injured and 9,700 killed, according to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine (as of 15 November 2016). Most of the more than 2,000 civilian deaths result from indiscriminate shelling of residential areas while explosive remnants of war, improvised explosive devices and landmines account for numerous casualties. Interruptions to water and electricity supplies occur frequently as a result of shelling. Moreover, utility companies face increasing diffi culties in carrying out repairs to worn out infrastructures damaged by the war, and mechanisms to transfer funds to pay bills across the ‘contact line’ are yet to be found. Over 1,000 inhabited houses were damaged in 2016.
The ‘contact line’ between GCA and NGCA has become a defacto border. Freedom of movement is restricted, isolating affected people in NGCA. More than 700,000 people travel across the ‘contact line’ every month in order to maintain family ties, look aft er property, access markets, health care and social payments in GCA. Restrictions to freedom of movement for people and goods across the frontline and limitations on commercial trade have disrupted market links and triggered an increase in consumer prices in NGCA.
The suspension of social payments to IDPs is a major protection concern, because pensioners are the only breadwinners for 38 per cent of conflict-affected families in GCA and 60 per cent in NGCA. Since February, the Government has suspended social payments and pensions for hundreds of thousands displaced people until they revalidate their IDP certificates, portraying this as a way to fight ‘fraudulent schemes’. This decision has increased movements of civilians, affecting primarily pensioners residing in NGCA who, according to the current Ukrainian legislation, are forced to register as IDPs to receive their entitlements.
The economic stagnation in the Donbas has been aggravated by more than two years of conflict. Families have depleted their savings and reduced their spending on health and education in order to afford food. Some 45 per cent of the IDPs have difficulties in finding new jobs. In September 2016, 38 per cent of IDPs were unemployed. The reduction of income coincides with an increase in the price of commodities and utilities costs.
Access to goods and services is a challenge, and, while aid delivery continues, organisations’ ability to provide assistance is constrained by insecurity and undue bureaucratic impediments. De facto authorities continue to prevent many humanitarian organisations from operating in areas under their control. While the Ukrainian Government has somewhat eased its previous procedural impediments to humanitarian aid delivery, serious challenges remain.
Th e Government has taken steps to assume its leadership in responding to the needs of the population, including the creation of the ‘Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs’ (MTOT&IDPs) which has a mandate for humanitarian and recovery coordination. Yet systematic acceptance from diff erent ministries to assume their role as duty bearers for their own people is lacking.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.