UN tackles gender and humanitarian impacts of Ukraine’s eastern conflict

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6 October 2015, Kiev (Ukraine) – Civil society including untraditional partners of the UN, provided information and feedback to UN humanitarian system about the most pressing needs affecting women and girls, as well as boys and men, including the elderly, and people with disabilities, affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The half day consultation saw rich exchange of ideas and recommendations for the UN to consider in planning humanitarian assistance for 2016.

“This is the first event to kick start the humanitarian planning. The fact that we start this process by discussing gender equality issues is a great testament of the importance assigned to this issue by the UN” said at the opening Neal Walker, UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator.

The workshop, Gender Equality in Humanitarian Action: 2016 humanitarian needs and response planning, was organised by UN Women Ukraine and the Inter-Agency Gender Advisor (GenCap) on Humanitarian Action in response to the deteriorating humanitarian situation fuelled by the on-going conflict in the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine.

That conflict has increased insecurity and violence throughout Ukraine. Combined with austerity measures adopted in March 2014, it has deepened gender inequalities and disproportionately affected women, who make up over 63 per cent of the country’s estimated 1.4 million internally displaced persons (IDPs). The economic consequences of the conflict and the protection risks to women and girls in a militarized environment have manifested in a number of ways – increased concerns for prostitution and risks to survival sex. A lack of access to social services and childcare and the already strained resources of host communities placed additional care burden on IDP women.

“IDP Women provide care for children, disabled and elderly family members. Lack of access to income support, and child care such as kindergartens, limit women’s employment leaving them with insignificant amounts of social benefits (if they are lucky to receive them)” - said Olena Petrenko, representative of NGO “Donbas SOS”.

“A lack of shelter support leaves people vulnerable and at risk of going back to conflict zones, placing them at threat of shelling, injuries, and limited humanitarian assistance”, said Lesia Lytvynova, Coordinator of IDP Support Center (Florovsky 9/11 project).

Discussions also centred on the specific needs of men, in particular young men, who may miss out on assistance as they do not fit any criteria for humanitarian assistance.

Over 30 people attended the workshop to integrate gender equality and women`s rights into future humanitarian action. Along with UN humanitarian actors, participants included women’s groups, local NGOs, persons with disabilities, faith-based organizations, think-tanks, as well as community based groups actively engaged in humanitarian response.

Having examined a crisis’ impact on different groups – women, men, the disabled, older women and men, ethnic and other minorities living in conflict affected areas the participants proposed responses based on each group’s needs in humanitarian areas, such as protection, shelter, food, livelihoods, recovery, and education, as well as health, water and sanitation.

The workshop helped to broaden a discussion of the gender dimension of humanitarian crisis, allow broader participation of civil society, in particular women’s organisations, and engage more non-traditional partners to have a better understanding of the differentiated impact of the crisis on women and men, boys and girls, and identify critical issues to be addressed throughout the humanitarian planning process for 2016.

The workshop was organized by UN Women in Ukraine and GenCap with support of protection, health, food, and health clusters, particularly UNHCR, WHO, WFP, UNFPA, as well as OSCE Monitoring Mission.