As the crisis in Ukraine slides into its fifth year, civilians continue to bear the brunt of a conflict that affects 5.2 million people, 3.5 million of whom require urgent humanitarian assistance and protection services. Fear of shelling, violent clashes or treading on one of the many landmines or unexploded remnants of war (ERW) are daily companions for millions of people living near the over 420-km-long ‘contact-line’, which has approximately the same length as the French-German border. Since the start of the conflict, more than 3,000 civilian men, women and children have been killed and another 9,000 injured. Dotted with landmines and other ERWs, eastern Ukraine has been branded one of the world’s most mine-contaminated areas.
The crisis in eastern Ukraine has become protracted. The long-term consequences are getting increasingly serious with daily hostilities damaging critical infrastructure and severely impacting the daily lives of the people residing in the area. Every month, more than 1.1 million civilian crossings are recorded at the five checkpoints, where families often have to endure long waiting hours in the bitter cold in the winters and scorching heat in the summers. This is especially cumbersome for the elderly, who make up 30 per cent of all people in need making this conflict the ‘oldest humanitarian crisis in the world’. The economic situation of the Donbas region, which was once the economic heartland of the East, is dire and people’s mental health deteriorates – be it because of having lived in fear for far too long or the lack of self-esteem, which often comes with losing economic status.
In its effort to help alleviate the suffering of the affected population and respond to some of the long-term consequences, OCHA established a presence in Kyiv shortly after the outbreak of the crisis in 2014. Today, OCHA’s 40 plus staff in Kyiv and in its four project support hubs in Kramatorsk and Sievierodonetsk (in GCAs) and Donetsk and Luhansk (in NGCAs) work together to support the coordination of humanitarian assistance of international and national organisations.
Despite enormous challenges, the UN and its humanitarian partners continue to deliver lifesaving assistance to millions of people across the country every month. Over the course of 2018, more than one million people benefitted from some form of humanitarian assistance and protection services.
The humanitarian response is coordinated within the six clusters of Shelter and Non-Food Items (Shelter/NFI), Protection, Health and Nutrition, Education, Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), Food Security and Livelihoods (FSL). The cluster partners conduct joint assessments, coordinate response and monitor humanitarian assistance and programming. As part of this coordinated effort, humanitarian agencies distribute various relief and early recovery supplies, including food and non-food items, shelter materials, medicine, hygienic and education kits as well as providing access to safe drinking water. Other urgent humanitarian assistance includes provision of farming inputs, mine clearance and mine-risk education as well as advocacy and actions to protect civilians.
The Humanitarian Coordinator (HC) plays a leading role in coordinating relief efforts of the international and national humanitarian communities and in complementarity to Government-led actions. The HC is assisted by OCHA’s secretariat and chairs the Humanitarian Country Team (HCT) The HCT is comprised of UN agencies, national and international NGOs and other key humanitarian organisations such as the Red Cross Society and MSF.
The Multi-Year Humanitarian Response Plan (MYHRP) calls for US$162 million to reach 2.3 million Ukrainians in 2019 with life-saving and protection assistance. The MYHRP prioritises immediate relief operations, where they are most urgently needed. The Plan also entails long-term approaches to utilise synergies between humanitarian and development actors with specific focus on Government-controlled areas (GCAs).
Meanwhile, 2018 HRP remains underfunded, with only 37 per cent of the requested funds received so far in 2018.