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Ukraine Protection Monitoring In selected settlements along the contact line in eastern Ukraine (Period: February – May 2021) [EN/UK]

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UNHCR presented its new report on the protection situation in conflict-affected settlements

Kyiv, Ukraine, 29 November. -- In line with UNHCR's global protection mandate and multi-year programmes in Ukraine in support of the humanitarian response, UNHCR, together with its local NGO partner Proliska, presented the report "Protection Monitoring in settlements along the contact line in eastern Ukraine, 2021" that analyses the findings from the first five months of protection monitoring carried out from February to May 2021. The report offers an evidence-based overview of the key protection risks and challenges in access to essential services faced by people living in settlements affected by the conflict and located along the contact line in eastern Ukraine.

In parallel, UNHCR also launched a PMT Dashboard -- the only tool externally available to all national and local, humanitarian, development and civil society actors in Ukraine that systematically shows, on a monthly basis, the key protection risks, gaps and trends affecting people living close to the contact line.

"For UNHCR the key objective of the protection monitoring is putting people who are living under harsh conditions every day of the week at the centre of our needs' assessment, our programming and advocacy. And not only to hear about their needs, but also about their capacities and suggestions on ways to increase access to key protection solutions and services," said Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR Representative in Ukraine.

The protection monitoring tool has been welcomed by numerous government institutions and ministries. Mr. Vitaliy Muzychenko, Deputy Minister of Social Policy and Mr. Vladyslav Zakabluk, Head of the Department for Access to Administrative Services of the Ministry for Reintegration of the Temporarily Occupied Territories of Ukraine, confirmed that the government will use the results of the monitoring while forming new policies on access of local populations to services and social benefits.

While launching the report, Ms. Osnat Lubrani, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine acknowledged that the findings have substantially informed the development of the United Nation's 2022 Humanitarian Needs Overview and Humanitarian Response Plan and can usefully inform authorities and humanitarian and development actors in their decision-making and prioritization of programmes. "The monitoring tool will also inform strategic cooperation opportunities between humanitarian and development partners within the framework of the Humanitarian-Development-Peace nexus," Ms. Lubrani said.

Implementation of the protection monitoring tool has been made possible thanks to the generous support of donors.

While speaking at the launch event, Ms. Renee Lariviere, Regional Refugee Coordinator at the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration (PRM), said that there are more and more protracted displacement situations around the world, which require us to prioritise the funding where the needs are the greatest. *"I think that the PMT tool shows where the gaps are so we can use it and coordinate with the government to either directly provide services or to work through other implementing partners, contracts and actors to help ensure that the needs are met," *said Ms. Renee Lariviere.

Highly consultative process

From February to May 2021, Proliska field staff collected data through structured interviews with key informants, who are community's members, including local residents, community leaders, local authorities, service providers and teachers living in 156 settlements close to the contact line in government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine. The total population in these 156 settlements is around 360,700 residents, including 232,800 persons (65 per cent) living in the 98 isolated settlements 0 to 5km from the contact line.

The preliminary results of the monitoring were reviewed through focus group consultations with over 100 residents in selected settlements, to identify causes for the main challenges and support the analysis of the results. Community consultations were also directed towards developing responses or advocacy strategies, based on the community's priorities and capacities. Thereafter, the findings were shared with the local oblast administrations, as well as government authorities at central level for comments and validation.

Findings and recommendations

The monitoring finds that in terms of impact, settlements located 0 to 5km from the contact line are disproportionately affected by the hostilities in comparison to settlements located further away from this area.

"If you come back today at 6pm, you will "hear" what our problems are," said one participant in focus group discussion in Bakhmutka (Donetsk Oblast, June 2021), referring to loud shelling.

Two elements come out as crosscutting to all protection concerns identified by the community members; these also constitute root causes for many other protection concerns highlighted by the affected population in eastern Ukraine: the prevailing volatility of the security situation due to ongoing hostilities and extensive land contamination by mines/ERW; and the isolation of these communities from State institutions and markets, due to lack of transportation and communications.

Both elements are interlinked with the impact observed on freedom of movement, livelihoods, access to social and administrative services, healthcare, education and the overall situation of utilities available in settlements located close to the contact line.

More recently, the administrative decentralization process has added another layer of challenges to the situation in some of the areas. The fact that the reform is being implemented at various administrative levels simultaneously, but not in a synchronized manner, and that most processes are still incomplete, has resulted in disruptions in provision and access to essential services in communities where humanitarian needs, and vulnerabilities were already acute. However, since June, the Protection Monitoring has also identified progress in the decentralization, while the reforms continue to unfold at local level.

"The Government of Ukraine has taken laudable steps to enhance service provision at the local level and to bring the authorities closer to communities, including by expanding digital services that can be accessed remotely. The continued empowerment of territorial communities through the decentralization reforms is a welcome development and an opportunity to strengthen their resilience, foster local development and build social cohesion amongst the conflict-affected population," said Karolina Lindholm Billing, UNHCR Representative.

Social transport for 100 settlements

One of the important objectives of the new tool is to inform advocacy, develop evidence-based programmatic responses and to involve different stakeholders in achieving improvements in conflict-affected settlements.

Soon after analysing the first results of the monitoring, UNHCR and Proliska shared the findings with the Protection Cluster in Ukraine suggesting to jointly resolve one of the most pressing issues -- transportation.

Based on this analysis and the advocacy of the Protection Cluster, the Ukrainian Humanitarian Fund (UHF) was able to provide funding to two humanitarian organizations -- Proliska and ADRA to establish a network of social buses, which now run in 100 of the most isolated settlements along the contact line.

*"Access to public transportation and other means of communication were repeatedly mentioned by key informants and participants in focus group discussions as a major concern and a crosscutting issue impacting access to social services, healthcare, livelihoods, markets, banks and education," *said Yevhen Kaplin, Head of the Proliska Humanitarian Mission NGO. -- With the launch of the social buses, we saw immediate improvements as they were tracked by the monitoring tool."

The next step -- in a humanitarian-development nexus approach -- will be to develop a sustainable public transport system in the area along the contact line, to connect the people living in the settlements to the services, and the services to the people for the years to come.

Please, use these links to access new report and dashboard:

PMT Report in English language

PMT Dashboard in English language

PMT Report in Ukrainian language

PMT Dashboard in Ukrainian language