Ukraine + 4 more

Ukraine: UNHCR Operational Update, August 2020

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In August, UNHCR jointly with its NGO partners delivered three humanitarian convoys to Donetsk and Luhansk NGCA, installed Wi-Fi hotspots at the checkpoint in Stanytsia Luhanska and helped over 900 persons to install the mobile phone application required to cross the ‘contact line’ and enter government-controlled areas. More operational highlights on page 2.

UNHCR provided ‘cash for protection’ to twelve displaced families affected by the COVID-19 restrictions. This activity was exceptionally introduced to support one hundred IDPs living in different regions of Ukraine and not only in locations along the ‘contact line’. More on page 6.

In August, UNHCR jointly with UNDP, Council of Europe and Free Legal Aid Centre (FLAC) launched the FLA Volunteers Project for activists willing to become paralegals in eastern Ukraine. The training programme brought on board thirty- one participants from conflict- affected Donetska and Luhanska oblasts. More on page 4.

Operational Highlights

During the reporting period, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) recorded 585 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine, representing a 95 per cent decrease as compared to July . This trend was a result of the renewed commitment to the ceasefire reached by the Trilateral Contact Group to the Minsk negotiations in July . In August, the UNHCR-led Shelter/NFI Cluster recorded no new damages to civilian houses on both sides of the ‘contact line’ for the first time since 2017 when the Cluster started systematically tracking such damages and established a database.

UNHCR’s Response to COVID-19: During the reporting period, UNHCR jointly with its NGO partner Proliska distributed Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to primary health care facilities along the ‘contact line’ in the government-controlled areas (GCA) in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts. Since items, such as face masks, medical goggles, gloves and gowns, have been provided to 43 primary healthcare institutions and 155 medical workers along the ‘contact line’ in both oblasts. This assistance was distributed as part of UNHCR’s Quick Impact Projects (QIPs) aimed at supporting medical workers during the pandemic and improving the provision of health services along the ‘contact line’.

Humanitarian convoys to NGCA: In August, UNHCR jointly with OCHA facilitated the delivery of three convoys to the non-government controlled areas (NGCA) in Donetsk and Luhansk. On 6 August, the convoy delivered six metric tons (MT) of humanitarian assistance for conflict-affected persons and social workers in Donetsk NGCA. This aid, including electric bicycles, household items, water containers, electrical appliances, and bed linen, will be distributed among 28 territorial centres and 53 first-aid points, which remain primary health care providers in these areas. On 7 and 13 August, two convoys brought 123 electric bicycles, 2,050 medical gowns and other PPE, as well as 21 metric tons of construction materials belonging to the NGO People in Need, to Luhansk NGCA. These convoys were delivered through the Entry-Exit Checkpoint (EECP) in Stanytsia Luhanska in Luhanska oblast. As this checkpoint is designated only for pedestrian crossings, the humanitarian cargo had to be transferred manually by UNHCR’s teams. Photo by UNHCR on the left.

July, PPE Monitoring Mission to the construction sites of two new EECPs in Luhanska oblast: On 25 and 27 August, UNHCR jointly with OCHA, OSCE, ICRC and WHO participated in a field mission to the future construction sites at the EECPs in the towns of Shchastia and Zolote in Luhanska oblast. It is planned that these checkpoints will open in November. During the visit, UN agencies and humanitarian partners conducted a needs assessment and met with the representatives of the Joint Forces Operation (JFO), State Border Guard Service (SBGS) and Civil-Military Co-operation (CIMIC). UNHCR is considering the modalities of assistance to be provided to both new EECPs. Photo by UNHCR on the right.

Situation at the UNHCR Response EECPs and : During the reporting period, following UNHCR’s advocacy for improving the provision of services at and near the EECPs in eastern Ukraine, Oschadbank (main state bank) installed mobile centres in amalgamated territorial communities in Donetsk and Luhansk GCA and at the EECPs. This will provide better and faster access to banking services for persons crossing the ‘contact line’. On 10 August, UNHCR jointly with its NGO partner Proliska installed three Wi-fi hotspots at the EECP in Stanytsia Luhanska. Free internet access will enable persons who cross to install the “Act at Home” mobile phone application (required by the Ukrainian authorities for tracking self-isolation), submit or check the validity of an electronic pass and access public online services.

In August, the EECPs in Novotroitske (Donetska oblast) and Stanytsia Luhanska (Luhanska oblast) remained the only two operating with a number of restrictions in eastern Ukraine. During the reporting period, the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGS) recorded 80,683 crossings across the ‘contact line’, which represents a 94 per cent decrease compared to the same period in 2019 (see UNHCR’s dashboard “Checkpoint Crossing” here). At the Novotroitske/Olenivka EECP, nine “humanitarian corridors” were authorized by the de facto authorities according to pre-approved lists allowing for 2,919 persons to cross the ‘contact line’ in both directions. At any given period, on average, over 10 people who were not allowed to cross remained stranded at the checkpoint staying in tents overnight. At the Stanytsia Luhanska EECP, 77,742 crossings were recorded in August. Of them, 14,149 individuals were transported by two electric cars operated by UNHCR and its NGO partner Proliska to help persons with specific needs to cross an 800-metres long passage between the two sides of the checkpoint. In August, UNHCR’s NGO partner, The Right to Protection (R2P), assisted over 900 persons who were crossing the ‘contact line’ with installing the “Act at Home” mobile phone application. Technical issues with this app continue to present challenges for persons crossing, especially those who own phones with an older operational system. On 7 August, a collapse of the application was reported resulting in over 1,000 persons being unable to be processed to enter GCA, forcing them to queue for several hours. These challenges combined with an overall increase in crossings, high summer temperatures and queues led to over 30 persons losing consciousness at the EECPs in August.