With Winter Coming, UN Migration Agency Helps Families in Eastern Ukraine Survive

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Elderly resident of the Donetsk Region non-government-controlled area receiving coal from IOM. © UN Migration Agency (IOM) 2017

Kyiv – Temperatures in the non-government-controlled areas (NGCA) of the Donetsk Region, Eastern Ukraine, are set to drop as low as minus 20 degrees Celsius this winter. Security challenges in the region and the harsh socio-economic situation close to the contact line and in remote impoverished districts of NGCA, mean many vulnerable families cannot maintain a safe temperature in their residences. IOM, the UN Migration Agency this week (18/12) started distributing coal to people in need in the region.

IOM will deliver coal to 3,800 vulnerable low-income families in Donetsk NGCA, including the elderly, persons with disabilities or chronic diseases, single-headed households and families with three or more children. Each beneficiary household will receive three tons of high quality anthracite coal, which should be sufficient to cover their heating needs for the entire winter.

“I lost my only son many years ago and now I live with my husband, who is bedridden… there is just the two of us,” said Valentyna, the first of several thousand beneficiaries, who will receive IOM’s support in the next weeks. The 82-year-old former teacher lives in the outskirts of Vuhlehirsk, a small village located between Horlivka and Debaltseve, close to the contact line. “We are originally from Luhansk, spent many years in Yenakieve, and upon retiring decided to move to this small village, since the cost of living was cheaper here. And then the war started right in front of our house,” said Valentyna.

Though heavily affected by the hostilities, Vuhlehirsk and its inhabitants received less humanitarian aid than the two big neighbouring cities. “Grandpa and I have never received any support since the beginning of the conflict,” added Valentyna.

Coal distribution is part of IOM’s support to help crisis-affected families prepare for and survive through winter, supported by the US Department of State Bureau of Population, Refugees, and Migration (PRM) and the Norwegian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The planned assistance in the NGCA also includes the rehabilitation of the heating systems in up to 20 social and medical institutions, as well as the distribution of 200 cast-iron stoves to families located in least accessible parts of Donetsk NGCA, where wood is the only available heating fuel. In parallel, in a few weeks IOM will transfer a first round of multipurpose cash to 4,000 vulnerable individuals in the government-controlled area (GCA), living close to the contact line in both Luhansk and Donetsk regions.

According to data collected during previous distributions, preparing for winter was the second main cash assistance expenditure. Families told IOM that they used 31 per cent of the funds they received to cover their medical expenses, and spent 23 per cent of the funds on fuel, winter clothing, as well as paying their bills for heating.

“Some 3.4 million men, women and children are locked in a dire humanitarian situation right on Europe’s doorstep,” said Thomas Weiss, IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission, during his recent visit to the field. “Over 30 per cent of those affected are elderly and 60 per cent are women and children. This type of assistance, which prepares vulnerable families for winter, is critical to reducing human suffering and preventing loss of lives during the harsh weather in the Eastern Conflict Area of Ukraine. We will continue to help the most vulnerable conflict-affected people both sides of the contact line,” added Weiss.

For more information, please contact Varvara Zhluktenko at IOM Ukraine, Tel: +38 044 568 50 15, Email: