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Ukraine: Funding urgently needed as humanitarians race to help millions through the long harsh winter

15 Nov 2018


As temperatures drop to well below zero in eastern Ukraine, millions of people urgently need humanitarian support as a result of an on-going active conflict, which increasingly is forgotten and seems to have fallen off the international radar, the UN Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Ms. Osnat Lubrani, said today in Geneva.

Ms. Lubrani briefed UN Member States on the human cost and consequences of the severe humanitarian crisis in eastern Ukraine, with civilian lives lost and injured on almost a daily basis. She called on international donors to urgently increase funding to help vulnerable families through the long harsh winter.

“Thanks to generous support by donors, so far this year more than one million most vulnerable Ukrainians have received vital assistance and protection services. But funding is now falling short,” Ms. Lubrani said. Humanitarians are racing to prepare for the freezing temperatures that usually grip the country during the winter months. Aid workers have reached people with shelter, food and livelihood support, cash assistance as well as improved access to health care and education. However, the 2018 Humanitarian Response Plan remains only 36 per cent funded.

“Lack of funds means that the basic needs of millions of men, women and children continue to be denied.” Ms. Lubrani warned. “I call on the Member States to stand in solidarity with the people of eastern Ukraine and help sustain them through the cold winter, which is compounded by overwhelming needs in the areas of mental health and psychological trauma, protection, mine action, shelter, health, livelihoods, water, sanitation and hygiene”.

Every month, over 1.1 million civilian crossings occur through the 427-plus km-long “contact line” – equivalent to the length of the French-German border. Civilians regularly endure long delays and risk hostilities and landmines as well as undignified conditions to maintain family links and access basic services. “I commend the efforts to improve crossing conditions at the checkpoints, but more needs to be done on both sides during this harsh winter,” stressed Ms. Lubrani pointing to the lack of adequate water and sanitation facilities and heating points at the checkpoints.

With thousands of ceasefire violations every month, shelling, sniper-fire and landmines in eastern Ukraine continue to kill and maim civilians. Over 3,000 civilians have lost their lives since 2014. Critical civilian infrastructure is also severely affected. “This year only, we have seen more than 73 incidents affecting critical water infrastructure and if the shelling continues during the winter, people will struggle to keep warm and frequent water interruption increases the risks of communicable disease outbreaks,” Ms Lubrani said, referring to fragile interconnected water and heating systems. “Civilians and critical civilian infrastructure must be spared and protected according to the international humanitarian law. They are not a target.” Ms. Lubrani said.

Photos: OCHA