The Russian offensive in the east continues although it appears to be making little progress.
There has been intense fighting around the city of Kharkiv where Ukrainian troops are trying to push back Russian forces. This is causing a further deterioration in the living conditions for those within the city. Elsewhere in Ukraine, air strikes and missile attacks have targeted key infrastructure including railways and bridges, hitting targets in the central region, Lviv and Odessa.
The number of internally displaced persons within Ukraine has now topped 8 million, along with 5.89 million people having fled to neighbouring countries. Yet, there have also been significant numbers of returns, both from abroad (approximately 1.5 million border crossings) and internally (an estimated 2.77 million IDPs have returned to their home areas). However, many of these returns may be temporary in nature and therefore it is hard to be sure of exact numbers of displaced or likely future trends. In addition, many refugees have indicated that they intend to stay until the war is over, increasing the need to invest in long-term solutions for local integration Humanitarian access to the cities and areas most heavily affected by conflict remains challenging, with few international aid organisations able to operate in these areas. Efforts to evacuate civilians from the Azovstal steel plant were finally successful and 600 people were evacuated from Mariupol and nearby towns, however evacuation routes and ceasefires continue to be difficult to implement. The presence of mines and unexploded ordination (UXO) is a further barrier, especially in areas formerly occupied by Russian forces.
Similarly, there is limited access to areas currently under Russian control such as the city of Kherson.
Damage to roads, bridges and other transport infrastructure is also impeding humanitarian logistics.
Continued attacks on health facilities and difficulties in transporting medication are both impacting the availability of health services. Added to this is the risk of being caught in shelling/air strikes and the cost of health services (when many people have lost their livelihoods). Therefore the situation of the health sector is particularly grave in conflict-affected areas. The impact is also being felt on long-term health issues such as immunisation campaigns and treatment for those with chronic illnesses such as HIV.
Eastern oblasts are experiencing higher levels of food shortages and food prices in comparison to the rest of Ukraine, this situation is exacerbated by the lack of livelihood opportunities as a result of the war. Although the food security situation has stabilised in many parts of the country, WFP estimates that one in every three households in Ukraine are now food insecure. There is an increased prevalence of negative coping mechanisms such as limiting the amount of food eaten, reducing the number of meals taken per day and adults reducing food intake to ensure children are fed.
The impact on livelihoods for both conflictaffected populations and the displaced is being felt. Women are being disproportionately affected by the conflict with many women facing increased pressure to provide for their families while male family members are involved in defence activities; at the same time they are taking on an increased burden as the primary carer.
Reports of incidents of safety and protection issues particularly gender-based violence continue to be reported in conflict-affected areas. Reports of mass graves; burnt and severely mutilated bodies, along with widespread reports of rape and torture are emerging from areas recently retaken by Ukrainian forces. However, verification of such incidents can be both challenging and time consuming.
Education facilities continue to be damaged or destroyed and access to education is a challenge across all affected groups. Those in conflict-affected areas may not have access to online learning or places conducive to learning.
Displaced children also face difficulties although provisions for refugee children to enrol in local education systems and for displaced children to access online schooling are being stepped up.
In neighbouring countries, especially Poland (which is hosting approximately three million refugees) national infrastructures and services are witnessing an increasing pressure, resulting in additional challenges in the response. In addition, inflation rates are also pushing up the prices of commodities, especially food, although it is yet to be seen what impact this will have on the situation for refugees and host communities.