OVERVIEW OF THE CRISIS
Millions of people are continuing to suffer unnecessarily in eastern Ukraine due to the entrenched political impasse and the ongoing armed conflict. Despite many attempts at a ceasefire, hostilities continue with almost daily shelling, frequent localized clashes, and rapidly escalating mine and unexploded ordnance contamination. Given the restrictions on access, just under a million crossings of the ‘contact line’ occur each month, with people forced to wait for many hours in long lines with minimal services.
Four years on, the prolonged conflict and socio-economic disparity between the GCA and NGCA have led to major reorganization of access to services such as education, health, legal assistance, markets and shops along and close to the ‘contact line’. Signs of long-term repercussions are slowly manifesting themselves, including increased poverty in the GCA and increased risk of water infrastructure failing altogether. The blockade of rail transportation, a trade embargo and ‘nationalization’ of important private sector entities in the NGCA have led to large-scale job losses and the closure of enterprises. Peoples’ savings and reserves are exhausted, and those in most need are being forced to stretch already limited resources or simply to go without.
Recent analysis indicates that people are resorting to degrading or negative practices to make ends meet, such as removing children from school, crime, alcoholism and survival sex.
With the parties to the conflict failing to adhere to the various ceasefire agreements, more than 2,500 civilians have been killed since April 2014 and another 9,000 injured. Along the ‘contact line’, an average of 40 armed clashes are recorded every day. Up to 200,0002 people living in the 5 km zone along the ‘contact line’ in the GCA regularly experience injury to or loss of loved ones or their neighbours, damage to property, and systematic barriers to accessing basic services.
Land mines, explosive remnants of war (ERW) and unexploded ordnances (UXOs) pose an escalating threat to civilians, curbing people’s access to farmland, and thereby inhibiting their ability to get back on their feet. Between January and September 2017, approximately 103 civilian men, women and children were killed or injured in mine-related incidents.3 Adherence to International Humanitarian Law and the Minsk ceasefire arrangements is lax.
Crossing the ‘contact line’ has become a perilous, prolonged and cumbersome journey. In 2017, the number of crossings steadily increased to a record high of up to 1.2 million in August. Just under a million crossings are recorded each month, compared to 700,000 in 2016. The highest increase was observed at the ‘Stanytsia Luhanska’ checkpoint: the only operational pedestrian crossing point in Luhanska Oblast.
Every month, thousands of civilians cross this checkpoint, which in fact amounts to a unstable, worn-out and dangerous wooden bridge in need of repair. The checkpoints – especially those in ‘no man’s land’ – lack adequate health, sanitation and shelter facilities, and long queues force people to wait for hours or sometimes days. While queuing, people are exposed to intense heat in summer as well as snow, wind and freezing conditions in winter, putting their health at risk. This is particularly challenging for the elderly, those with disabilities, children and pregnant women. In 2017, at least 14 civilians reportedly died or suffered serious health complications whilst waiting. These difficulties, along with frequent checkpoint closures due to insecurity and congestion, force people to take longer and extremely dangerous routes through unmarked areas, putting them at greater risk of mines and UXOs.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.