• Increased insecurity triggered new civilian casualties and widespread humanitarian needs across the ‘contact line’.
• Water and heating provision for some 1.1 million people is at risk.
• Humanitarian partners and authorities mobilized a coordinated response.
• An inter-agency rapid needs assessment mission took place on 1 February.
Heavy fighting in eastern Ukraine has intensified since 29 January. The use of heavy artillery, including multi-rocket launchers (MLRS “GRAD”), was widely reported. Preliminary OHCHR estimates indicate at least 63 civilian casualties (12 deaths and 51 injuries) between 1 January and 3 February, including 48 (7 deaths, 41 injured) between 29 January and 2 February. These casualties were caused by shelling from artillery, tanks and MLRS. The rapid increase of hostilities triggered new, urgent humanitarian needs along the ‘contact line’, in both Government and non-Government controlled areas of Donetska and Luhanska oblasts (GCA and NGCA – see map on page 4).
Unanimous calls for a full, stable ceasefire remain unheard, even if the number of reported security incidents has somewhat decreased as of 4 February. Continuous loss of lives, concerns around protection of civilians and the concurrent, sustained damages of critical civilian infrastructure are of outmost humanitarian concern. Access to water and heating for some 1.1 million people in Donetska oblast is at risk as inter-dependent infrastructure – electricity, water, with a knock on effect on heating – is yet to be fully restored.
On 30 January, the last power line to Avdiivka and the Coke Plant, which provides heating to local communities, sustained damage, leaving residents without power, water and heating supply for 48 hours. Donetsk Filter Station stopped working due to destructions of electricity infrastructure affecting some 400,000 people in GCA and NGCA. On 1 February, as a result of electricity supply cut off to Verkhniokalmiuska Filter Station, around 800,000 people in parts of Donetsk city and surrounding areas had no access to water for 24 hours. Since 1 February, a water pipeline leakage near Avdiivka disrupted water supply to almost 500,000 residents Mariupol, who now rely on a backup reservoir. On the night of 4 to 5 February, more shelling damaged electricity infrastructure serving the town of Horlivka (190,000 people).
Repair teams continuously tried to restore the power lines but came under fire despite the reports of local ceasefire agreements to enable the works. Restored lines are repeatedly damaged, nullifying the efforts to ensure the operation of critical infrastructure. With temperature as low as -17C the systems are barely managing to maintain acceptable temperature inside people’s houses as well as local hospital, schools and other critical social infrastructure. Continuous shelling, also, poses a major risk due to the proximity of industrial plants and water stations with chlorine gas storage. In case of damage, consequences would be short of environmental catastrophe.
In Luhansk province (GCA), heating supply has come under additional threat after a group of veterans of volunteer battalions blocked the movement of cargo trains in the Luhansk–Lysychansk–Popasna railway section. The blockade has affected the supply of coal delivery from NGCA to the heating station in Schastia (Novoaidarskyi raion), according to the Ministry of Temporary Occupied Territories and IDPs (MToT&IDPs) and has incurred financial losses of about 37 million UAH (US$ 1.32 million). The veterans demand the release of prisoners of war by the de facto authorities. There are reports that the group plans to block additional parts of the railroad. On 30 January, a portion of the railroad LuhanskLysychansk-Popasna near the ‘contact line’ was dismantled, and the incident is being investigated.
Avdiivka has been a long-term hotspot with about 16,000 people, including 2,500 children still residing in town, which is less than a half of its pre-conflict population2. Following the 30 January incident that stopped the supply of power, heating and water, the town was using a small back-up reservoir to maintain minimum to medium functioning of the heating system. Repair teams were able to restore the electricity supply on 5 February, however, the ongoing hostilities still pose a risk of new or repeated damage to the infrastructure. The city continues to mainly run on three high-power generators to ensure minimum services. Some 11 heating points, with field kitchens, water and food have been established. Yet, another incident on the night of 2 February hit the areas where these services were provided, taking the life of one person and leaving two injured. Electric power remains absent in five settlements in Yasynuvatsky district (Tonenke, Pivnichne, Vesele, Vodiane, Kamenka) located near Avdiivka.
As of 6 February, some 186 houses, including eight multi-storeyed buildings, have been damaged in the town. A total of 298 people, including 139 children, have been evacuated. Some 20 critically ill patients of the local hospital were evacuated to Kostyantinivka. Additional reports are coming of people fleeing the town on their own, however there are no estimates available at this point in time. Schools closed for a few days, and are now reopening. Some 11,789 people have received some form of assistance at the humanitarian centre (hot food, heating, mobile phone recharge, etc.) The situation also deteriorated in the vicinity of Mariupol over the past few days. On 3 February, 18 private houses, power and gas supply were damaged by shelling in Sartana (GCA). Local authorities managed to quickly restore the power and gas supply to the town. Affected people are receiving shelter assistance to cover immediate repair needs.
Hostilities have further escalated in the areas of Luhanska oblast, namely, in Triokhizbenka (Novoaidarskyi raion) and in Troitske, Komyshuvakha, Vrubivka, Zolote, and Popasna (Popasnianskyi raion). As a result of shelling, a school in Triokhizbenka has suspended learning activities. Local authorities have started repair works and humanitarian partners are mobilizing additional support. Over 20 residential houses have been damaged in Komyshuvakha, Zolote, Troitske, and Vrubivka. International humanitarian organizations plan to repair damaged buildings in Vrubivka which suffered biggest losses. In addition to residential destruction, the power lines in Popasna and Vrubivka were also damaged, cutting electricity supply. By 6 February, the authorities have restored power in both settlements by using generators.
Overall, at least 18 schools in GCA and NGCA have been impacted, damaged or closed, due to high insecurity. Some 2,600 students in 13 schools in GCA do not have access to education. The Education Cluster reports of at least five education facilities being damaged in NGCA of Donetsk and Luhansk during the first week of February.
In Donetsk city, shelling led to civilian casualties, caused damage to residential housing and infrastructure. As of 3 February, de facto authorities estimate that some 130 houses, including 7 multi-storey buildings, were damaged over the course of one week. Several schools and kindergartens were also hit. In Makiivka, two schools, a kindergarten, two clinics, and a penal colony also suffered damages. Over the last week, gas supply was interrupted for at least 130 houses in Pikuzy (former Kominternove), up to 1,000 people in Yakovlivka settlement (Yasynuvata area), and 1,200 users in Donetsk and Makiivka. Multiple impacts on gas and electricity supply system were reported in Makiivka (53 houses were temporarily left without heating) and Kuybyshevsky district of Donetsk. About 300 civilians from Yasynuvata as well as Kuybishevskyi and Kyievskyi districts of Donetsk city were relocated to collective centres.
- UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
- To learn more about OCHA's activities, please visit https://www.unocha.org/.