• Protection of Civilians: The security environment deteriorated in February, with increasing numbers of incidents since the beginning of 2021. February reached the highest rate of damages to civilian houses since the ceasefire in July 2020 – a total of 18 incidents were recorded from July to December 2020, while in 2021 so far 29 incidents were recorded, of which 21 in February only. OSCE SMM reports continuing ceasefire violations (increase of 30% in 2021 compared to December 2020), posing risks to civilians living along the contact line. The proximity of military positions to residential areas often leave the latter susceptible to collateral damage from overflying bullets and projectiles. The threat of landmines and UXOs also remains a serious concern as incidents with civilians continue to be reported. In February, a 73-year old man died as a result of a mine incident in Luhansk Government Controlled Area (GCA). The incident took place in an isolated settlement, and partners reported challenges with access to a timely emergency health response.
• Freedom of Movement: Only two Entry-Exit Crossing Points (EECP) - Stanytsia Luhanska and Novotroitske - remain open on both GCA and nongovernment controlled (NGCA) sides. Crossingsincreased by 32% compared to January and are expected to increase further as the weather conditions improve. Although the Cabinet of Ministers adopted Resolution #1236 to provide free COVID19 tests at EECPs, by the end of February free tests were only available at EECP Novotroitske. This situation hinders NGCA residents’ access to GCA side, as many are pensioners with limited resources to pay for private tests or self-isolate for 14 days. NGO Donbas SOS reported an increase in calls to its hotline regarding availability of free testing at the EECP.
• Birth Registration: The Cabinet of Ministers adopted Resolution #155 to allow children born in NGCA to be registered via the e-Malyatko electronic service. Although court decisions are still a pre-requisite for birth registration in such cases, the new regulation is a positive step to minimize the risk of statelessness amongst children born in NGCA.
• Housing, Land and Property (HLP): The Ministry for Reintegration of Temporarily Occupied Territories approved 43 out of 52 applications for subvention from the state budget to local budgets, submitted by local authorities to fund the IDP housing programme 70/30. The decision is expected to benefit 412 IDPs in 14 regions across Ukraine. In February, the Compensation Committees in Donetsk and Luhansk regions approved 64 requests for compensation for destroyed housing.
• Access to services: Oschadbank prolonged the validity of the expired bank cards until 1 May 2021. The action is very welcome as it will prevent the suspension of social benefits to IDPs and conflict-affected population who reside in NGCA and cannot cross the contact line to collect or renew their bank cards.
• Impact of the Decentralization on Access to Essential Services: The humanitarian needs and vulnerabilities along the contact line, already more acute due to COVID-19, are once again at risk of increasing. Monitoring conducted by partners in January-February 2021 indicate that the current stage of the decentralization process at Raion and Amalgamated Territorial Communities (ATC/OTG) levels may disproportionately impact communities affected by the conflict, particularly in relation to provision and access to essential services in the short and medium term. Civil Military Administrations (CMA) were established in 18 communities along the contact line, but appointments of Heads of 16 CMAs are still pending. Partners report that the establishment of new service centres or the rearrangement of existing ones to cover new areas vary in the East and led to disruption of social services in some locations – including essential child protection services. A prolonged halt in service provision may limit access to social benefits. Electricity supply is reportedly being rationed in a number of in community centres, limiting access of children and elderly to extracurricular activities and psychosocial support. Communities are worried about how they will physically access services in a context of persistent restrictions on movements and limited availability of public/affordable transportation to the main centres. Not all the settlements are inter-connected by public transport.
In some cases, the roads are extremely poor, even impassable in poor weather.