Having entered the seventh year of conflict, the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains volatile. Daily incidents across the frontline are still causing damage to civilian infrastructure such as housing, water and electricity supply, schools, and health facilities. The daily lives of civilians residing in the area are heavily impacted by the hostilities. They face difficulties accessing services such as healthcare, while decline of local economy results in the loss of income and livelihoods as well as prolonged psychological distress.
The conflict in eastern Ukraine, which started in 2014, has become protracted. The humanitarian situation remains grim along both sides of the “line of contact", with 3.4 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. The elderly make up a third of all people in need, making this conflict the ‘oldest’ humanitarian crisis in the world.
The Ukrainian government’s restriction of movement of people and goods continues to negatively impact the needs and wellbeing of people. Hundreds of thousands of displaced people and residents in non-government controlled areas face difficulties in accessing their pensions, which exposes them to the risk of sliding further into poverty. In the non-government-controlled areas, few humanitarian organisations are formally registered and freedom of movement and humanitarian access remain restricted. Eastern Ukraine has become one of the most mine-contaminated areas in the world, ranking fifth worldwide for casualties due to landmines and other explosive remnants of war.
The coronavirus pandemic is further aggravating the dire humanitarian situation: general prices have increase, leading to increased food insecurity. The temporary closure of the crossing points have hampered the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the non-government controlled areas as well as the daily life of its population.
Since 2014, the European Union and its Member States have contributed over €1 billion in humanitarian and early recovery aid. The EU addresses the needs of people in the areas directly affected by the conflict and those who have fled the conflict areas.
EU-funded humanitarian projects include multi-purpose cash assistance, provision of basic needs, shelter, water, protection activities, health assistance including psychosocial support, education in emergencies, mine risk education, and the distribution of essential winterisation items. Actions on disaster risk reduction are also implemented in conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine.
The EU is one of the largest humanitarian donors to the crisis in eastern Ukraine and has provided €154.8 million in emergency financial assistance; including €13 million allocated in 2020. About half of the assistance benefits vulnerable people living in the non-government controlled areas. This relief aid targets those most in need, including female-headed households, the elderly, children, and people with disabilities. Nearly 12% of 2020 funding addresses the coronavirus related needs in eastern Ukraine. The funding helps support Primary Health Centres and hospitals, provide medical equipment, Personal Protective Equipment and hygiene kits. The humanitarian partners also raise awareness about how to protect oneself from the pandemic, targeting the most at-risk groups such as the elderly and people with chronic illnesses, pupils in schools and people at the crossing points.
The European Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations (ECHO) have been operating in Ukraine since February 2014. The EU’s humanitarian department plays a key role in facilitating humanitarian coordination and information-sharing among various organisations, including donors, authorities and humanitarian partners. The EU also assists displaced Ukrainians in Belarus and the Russian Federation.
EU funded humanitarian assistance is delivered through the UN agencies, non-governmental organizations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.