Ukraine Humanitarian Situation Report # 51, 1-31 October 2016
A temporary solution was found to maintain the water supply to 1.2 million people in Luhansk Oblast, affected when the electricity supply to the Popasnyanskyi Vodakanal system was cut off on 26 September. It is urgent however to apply more permanent solutions to the payment of utilities crossing the contact line.
UNICEF supported the repair works in 20 settlements close to the contact line, ensuring the continued provision of safe water to 18,375 people.
On 4 October, in cooperation with the City Council of Mariupol and Mariupol Vodokanal, UNICEF launched the ‘Social Water’ project to provide free drinking water to schools, kindergartens and hospitals, and low-cost drinking water to vulnerable people as identified by the Municipality. Approximately 40-50,000 children will benefit from this project.
UNICEF distributed 4,000 educational kits to 25 schools, school furniture for 70 classrooms, 40 water storage tanks, and 705 midwifery kits in the Donetsk Oblast non-government controlled area (NGCA).
Initial findings from an ongoing UNICEF assessment indicate that there are at least 42,000 children living within 15 km of the front line from both sides. Many of them have to spend time frequently in bomb shelters and basements, and suffer high levels of psychosocial trauma as a result.
Since the beginning of 2016, 3,842 teachers, 420 school psychologists and 112 social workers from eastern Ukraine were trained to gain knowledge and skills in providing psychological support to school-aged children.
Situation Overview & Humanitarian Needs
Despite the ‘ceasefire’ negotiated in early September and the ‘separation of forces’ in October, heavy weapons and armed formations have yet to be withdrawn from the contact line. During the reporting period, there was an increase in ceasefire violations compared with the previous month, especially in the area around Mariupol. There were 66 casualties recorded by the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), including eight killed and 58 injured. This is three times higher than the level of the previous month.1 It is hoped that talks, which took place in Berlin on 19-20 October under the ‘Normandy Format,’ involving France, Germany, Ukraine and Russia, will provide renewed impetus to the implementation of the Minsk Accords.
Access for humanitarian organizations to non-government controlled areas (NGCA) remains a concern. However, the volume of the international humanitarian assistance reaching the most vulnerable populations in the Donetsk NGCA has increased, with transports being allowed on a case-by-case basis. During the reporting period, UNICEF provided educational supplies and equipment to Donetsk NGCA and distributed school furniture for 70 classrooms, 4,000 educational kits, 705 midwifery kits and 40 water storage tanks.
The crisis continues to weaken the protective environment around children, increasing their vulnerability. It is estimated that at least 42,000 children are living in areas within 15km of the contact line, of whom 36,000 are of school age, frequently looking for safety in basements and bomb shelters. UNICEF continued to support the child protection response, in partnership with local civil society organisations.
Access to water on both sides of the contact line continues to be frequently interrupted for varying lengths of time, posing a humanitarian risk, which is difficult to mitigate, given the size and complexity of the system. On 4 October, a temporary solution was found to restart the water supply for the 1.2 million people in Luhansk NGCA whose water had been cut off for 8 days in end September/early October. However, this arrangement will expire at the beginning of December, raising the need for a longer-term solution. Voda Donbassa, the main water supplier to over four million people in Donetsk Oblast had its bank accounts frozen on 12 October due to non-payment of electricity bills (around $5 million, but with significantly larger long-term debts). Voda Donbassa continues to operate thanks to fuel supplied by ICRC, with UNICEF delivering necessary chemical supplies. The fact that there have now been two similar cases where payment problems have threatened the water supply, underlines the need to advocate for permanent solutions to be found for water utilities on both sides of the contact line, and for the debts of utility companies to be restructured. The consequences of not doing so would be extremely severe for the five million people directly affected, and might cause problems for Ukraine as a whole, if people felt the need to move en masse due to a water supply shortage.
The key health- and nutrition-related concerns continue to be the lack of health care professionals (up to 50 per cent in some areas), interrupted state funding and supply of medical consumables and drugs - all of which hamper access to basic health care services. Primary health care services are largely unavailable, especially in the rural areas and near the contact line. People in affected areas have difficulty obtaining medicines due to shortages and increasing drug prices. In order to have a Ukrainian birth registration, pregnant women are obliged to travel and give birth in maternity units in the GCA, which exposes them to long queues at checkpoints. The de facto authorities are reporting availability of vaccines in NGCAs as an issue of great concern.
October saw a sudden drop in temperature as winter approaches, raising concerns about the humanitarian situation in the conflict-affected area, given the number of damaged houses caused by recent fighting in eastern Ukraine, as well as interruptions to electricity, water and gas supplies. UN agencies including UNICEF, its partners and local authorities have commenced supporting winterisation efforts. Of high concern to UNICEF is the lack of heating systems in kindergartens, schools, maternity units and primary healthcare centres. There is a financial gap, which prevents this issue from being addressed appropriately.