The latest re-commitment to ceasefire that came into force on 29 December (ongoing) brought some respite from violence ahead of the New Year and Orthodox Christmas. Less security incidents and use of heavy weapons were reported. However, localized skirmishes continued in areas close to the ‘contact line’, resulting in nine civilian casualties (two killed and seven injured) as well as damage to critical civilian infrastructure. Amidst freezing sub-zero temperatures in mid-December, shelling damaged local pipelines and disrupted water supply to some 43,000 residents of Toretsk (Donetska oblast, GCA), including some 5,000 children in 21 educational facilities. After five days the water supply resumed, when a local ‘window of silence’ was agreed for technicians to fix the damaged pipelines. However, despite these safety guarantees, on 25 December, water workers came under heavy shelling. While this time casualties were avoided, it is not always the case. On 10 January, three water workers were injured as their vehicle came under fire while clearing snow to a major pumping station. The Humanitarian Coordinator issued a statement of concern, and appealed to spare civilians and protect infrastructure, especially during the cold months, as the centralized heating system depends on water supply, which may lead to severe consequences if heating is cut-off. Later in December, the local authorities in Luhanska oblast issued a public health warning, following an increased number of people with hypothermia symptoms seeking medical care. The elderly being particularly vulnerable, who often face financial difficulties in paying for heating to keep their homes warm. The 2019 Humanitarian Needs Overview estimates that 3.5 million people will require humanitarian assistance and protection.*
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- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
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