The third quarter of 2017 was marked with two ceasefi res – one in June to allow safe harvest and the other at the end of August to allow a safe resumption of schooling season. The two ceasefi re agreements were not fully adhered to; notwithstanding, they brought about a brief respite. From July to September, the number of clashes and skirmishes recorded seemed to have declined by half (approximately 2,400 incidents), compared to the fi rst quarter (approximately 5,000 incidents).1 A similar observation was recorded in the number of education facilities2 damaged, as well as shelling and other incidents aff ecting power supply and water infrastructure.3
The apparent drop of WASH incidents in August followed the agreement reached in Minsk on 19 July to avoid damage to critical water facilities, including Donetsk Filter Station and the 1st Lift Pumping Station (near Avdiivka) of the South Donbass Water pipeline (SDWP). However, the number of such incidents started to increase again in September onwards, as the WASH Cluster recorded six incidents in September and eight in October.
Unfortunately, the relative lull did not translate into any signifi cant progress in addressing serious strategic issues and thereby hindered preparedness eff orts ahead of winter. For example, Voda Donbassa was unable to repair one branch of the SDWP near the 1st lift pumping station since February 2017, putting around 400,000 people at immediate risk of water cuts. The Karbonit system also had repeated problems with pipelines breaking.
Based on the experience of last winter when the temperatures dropped as low as minus 20 degrees, damage of water or electricity supplies would put centralized heating systems for nearly 2 million people at risk of stopping. Meanwhile, workers at critical social infrastructure continued to putting their own health and lives at risk, to ensure an uninterrupted supply of water by operating and repairing water networks. According to WASH cluster, 21 staff members of Voda Dobassa so far have been either killed or injured while on duty.
The number of crossings across the ‘contact line’ has steadily increased to a record high of up to 1.2 million in August. On average, 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. Thousands of civilians cross this checkpoint each month, which in fact amounts to an unstable, worn-out and dangerous wooden bridge in need of repair. Attempts to negotiate the opening of an additional crossing point in Luhanska oblast have yet to reach a breakthrough.
In addition to constant shelling and the presence of mines, the checkpoints – especially those in ‘no man’s land’ – lack adequate health, sanitation and shelter facilities, with long queues forcing 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 suff ered serious health complications whilst waiting. The diffi culties, 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.
The humanitarian operations in the non-Government controlled area (NGCA) remained hindered by political uncertainty and multiple so-called ‘registration’ requirements imposed by the de facto authorities. In July, the de facto authorities of Donetska oblast NGCA announced changes in the ‘registration’ procedures of humanitarian missions and activities as well as introduced an additional requirement for humanitarian cargos. The ‘registration’ and permit renewal procedure is complicated and the time required to process it remains unpredictable. If granted, ‘registration’ and permits are limited to a short period of time – from one week to three months. This severe and complex restrictions on humanitarian operations and activities, coupled with unpredictability, not only lead to limited access to people in need, but also hinders the ability of organisations to systematically plan their interventions.
The 2017 Humanitarian Response Plan (HRP) underwent a mid-year review through a pragmatic and realistic approach to determine what was critically needed for the remainder of 2017. On the one hand, the Mid-Year Review (MYR) prompted an overall increase of the number of people in need from 3.8 to 4 million, due to an increase of Internally Displaced Persons’ (IDPs) caseload. On the other, the number of people targeted slightly decreased, from 2.6 to 2.4 million, prompting a decrease in the overall requirement from US$214 to $204 million.
The reduction of around US$10 million was predominantly due to severe underfunding, exclusion of seasonality-sensitive activities and partners’ inability to operate in NGCA. Lack of funding forced some key partners to withdraw their operations in Ukraine. So far in 2017, three international NGOs have terminated their operations in Ukraine, and an additional one is due to leave by the end of December due to lack of funding.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.