After more than six years, the armed conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to significantly impact the lives of millions of people living in the Donetska and Luhanska oblasts, 3.4 million of whom require humanitarian assistance and protection services. While the July 2020 ceasefire brought marked reductions in attacks on critical infrastructure and civilian casualties, the level of hostilities has been gradually rising in recent months, almost reaching the pre-ceasefire level. In January 2021, the first civilian casualty from active hostilities and the first attack on an educational facility were recorded since the start of the ceasefire, indicating a potential upsurge in hostilities in the coming months.
The COVID-19 pandemic has further strained the vulnerability of people in need of assistance, with many of them facing challenges to sustain their livelihoods. Half of those in need, some 1.7 million people, live in non-Government-controlled areas (NGCA), where the prolonged closure of the “contact line”– the 427-km-long frontline dividing the region –is causing increased severity of humanitarian needs. For 11 months, only 3 per cent of the 1.2 million people who regularly crossed the “contact line” from NGCA each month before the start of the pandemic in Ukraine in March 2020 have been able to cross to Government-controlled (GCA) to access cash, pensions, administrative services, or reconnect with family members. The protracted closure is making the conflict-weary communities more dependent on humanitarian assistance and protection services.
OCHA’s overall goal in Ukraine is to ensure the delivery of effective and principled humanitarian action that meets the needs of the most vulnerable people. To achieve this, OCHA supports the Humanitarian Coordinator and humanitarian partners in operational coordination, humanitarian financing, public information, humanitarian analysis, advocacy and information management. 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 operational hubs in Kramatorsk and Sievierodonetsk (GCA) and Donetsk and Luhansk (NGCA) work together to support the coordination of humanitarian assistance of international and national organizations.
Since the beginning of the conflict in 2014, the United Nations and humanitarian partners have been on the ground in eastern Ukraine, providing relief and protection assistance worth more than US$1.2 billion, including over $600 million mobilized through the annual Humanitarian Response Plans (HRPs) in Ukraine. In 2020, coordinated humanitarian action under the 2020 HRP reached over 1 million people on both sides of the “contact line” in eastern Ukraine.
The humanitarian response is coordinated through the cluster approach. Six humanitarian clusters have been activated in Ukraine: Education, Food Security and Livelihoods, Health, Protection, Shelter and Non-Food Items and Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH). Humanitarian organizations that are cluster partners conduct joint assessments, coordinate response and monitor humanitarian assistance and programming. As part of this coordinated effort, humanitarian actors provide emergency and time-critical assistance and ensure access to basic essential services, including food and non-food items, shelter materials, medicine, hygiene and education kits, drinking water and other aid. Other urgent humanitarian assistance includes supporting peoples’ livelihoods, mine clearance and mine-risk education, and advocacy to protect civilians.
In 2021, the humanitarian community in Ukraine will continue to focus on saving lives, ensuring people’s access to basic services and strengthening the protection of those affected by the conflict and COVID-19. The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan – a strictly prioritized and comprehensive plan of action – lays out how over 120 humanitarian partners aim to provide humanitarian aid and protection services to 1.9 million of the most vulnerable people in the conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine. The Plan seeks $168 million to provide humanitarian aid and protection to those most vulnerable through almost 100 humanitarian projects in 2021.