Humanitarian needs overview of Ukraine

Map of Ukraine. The Luhansk and Donetsk regions to the East Map of Ukraine. The Luhansk and Donetsk regions to the East © Photo by Rusak on iStock

This is a brief presentation of the report “Humanitarian Needs Overview Ukraine 2021” by the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs 

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is a section of the United Nation secretariat devoted to the coordination of humanitarian action to ensure a coherent response to humanitarian crises by mobilizing assistance and resources, and operating to overcome obstacles which impede humanitarian assistance. The report provides a general overview of the crisis in Ukraine by focusing on the most pressing humanitarian needs of the population living in the conflict-affected separatist regions of Luhansk and Donetsk, constituting the Donbass region, located on the eastern border of Ukraine.

As of July 2020, according to the OCHA, the conflict has claimed the lives of 3.367 people and injured more than 7.000. After five years of violence, in July 2020, a ceasefire was agreed on, resulting in a reduction in hostilities and casualties.  However, the population in the conflict area is suffering from a serious humanitarian crisis due to the persistence of violence, the presence of landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW), and the devastating effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. As reported by the OCHA, those currently in need of humanitarian aid amount to 3.4 million, of which 1.5 reside in the government-controlled areas (GCA), 1.7 reside in the non-government-controlled areas (NGCA), and 340.000 are internally displaced.  The pandemic has aggravated the already precarious situation due to the closure of crossing points along the contact line between the GCA and the NGCA. As a result of the closure, particularly the residents of the NGCA became isolated and without access to social benefits, pensions, or possibility to maintain family ties. The pandemic has also hindered access to humanitarian aid, which, between March and October 2020, decreased by 14 percent compared to the previous year. Thanks to the ceasefire, security in the area improved compared to 2019, as the number of civilian casualties dropped by 20 percent by November 2020. However, landmines and ERW continue to kill and maim civilians, hindering their freedom of movement. In 2019, Ukraine ranked third in the world for overall casualties caused by landmines and ERW, and in 2020 the number of casualties resulting from these devices rose by 8.6 percent compared to the previous year. Despite the improvement in overall security, indiscriminate targeting of civilian infrastructure continued in 2020. According to Education Cluster, a formal forum of cooperation between non-governmental organizations, United Nations agencies and other humanitarian actors to ensure access to education during humanitarian crises, between January and May 2020 nine schools were hit or damaged by shelling, while between January and September eight incidents to electrical infrastructure were reported and 16 water and sanitation facilities were targeted.

Of the 3.4 million people in need of humanitarian access, women represent 55 percent of the total number, with the percentage increasing to 61 in isolated settlements. In the NGCA, 56 percent of families rely on pensions as their source of income, but the war and the pandemic have hindered people from accessing pensions or withdrawing cash, forcing them to deplete savings, borrow money, or recur to non-legal means to access their pensions. People with disabilities also witnessed an increase in their vulnerability, as their access to healthcare, food, employment, education, and social services has been further hindered by the pandemic. Children also account for a vulnerable category as the pandemic, the militarization of education, and the attacks to education facilities have compromised the educational development of 660.000 boys and girls, as reported by the Education Cluster Estimates. The attacks on education and lack of a near political solution to end the violence raise concern about the Ukrainian youth, deemed to become a “lost generation”, born and raised in war and experiencing violence as normal.

The living standards of the population in the conflict-affected areas have considerably decreased due to the lack of basic services. The report analyzes the distress experienced by civilians in the sectors of education, food security and livelihoods, health, shelter, access to non-food-items, protection, access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and urges the competent authorities to take action to mitigate the damages caused by the conflict and the pandemic on the health and wellbeing of the population.

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Carla Leonetti; Editor: Francesca Mencuccini

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