After more than 7 years of conflict, the security situation in eastern Ukraine remains volatile. Since the July 2020 ceasefire, there has been fewer hostilities and civilian casualties across the frontline. However, daily incidents are still causing damage to housing, water and electricity supply, schools, and health facilities. Civilians continue to face difficulties such as accessing basic services, unemployment, or psychological distress. COVID-19 and related travel restrictions have further worsened the situation for the most vulnerable who cannot cross the “line of contact” and get their social entitlements.
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", which divides eastern Ukraine into areas under the Government’s control and those outside it. In 2021, some 3.4 million people are projected to need humanitarian assistance. The elderly make up a third of all people in need, making this conflict the ‘oldest’ humanitarian crisis in the world.
Limitations to movement, which worsened with COVID-19 measures, continue to negatively impact the needs and wellbeing of people. All but 2 crossing points remain closed, which hampers the delivery of humanitarian assistance in the non-government-controlled areas as well as the daily life of its population. Thousands of displaced people and residents in non-government-controlled areas face difficulties in accessing their pensions, which exposes them to 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 5th worldwide for casualties due to landmines and other explosive remnants of war. The coronavirus pandemic is further aggravating the already dire humanitarian situation: as prices have gone up, food insecurity is increasing.
The EU is one of the largest humanitarian donors to the crisis in eastern Ukraine. Since the beginning of the crisis, the European Commission has provided over €190 million in emergency financial assistance, including €25.4 million in 2021.
The assistance benefits vulnerable people living on both sides of the frontline. This relief aid targets those most in need, including female-headed households, the elderly, children, and people with disabilities.
In 2021, EU humanitarian funding helps people access healthcare, including better preparation and response to the COVID-19 pandemic and comply with COVID-19 related restrictions. The funding supports the rehabilitation of damaged houses, schools, and hospitals. It provides affected people with the means to meet their basic needs and access safe water, education in emergencies, and protection services including legal support.
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: (i) multi-purpose cash assistance; (ii) provision of basic needs; (iii) shelter; (iv) water; (v) protection activities; (vi) health assistance including psychosocial support; (vii) education in emergencies; (viii) mine risk education; (ix) and the distribution of essential winterisation items. EU humanitarian partners also implement actions on disaster risk reduction in conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine.
The EU’s Civil Protection and Humanitarian Aid Operations 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 organisations and the International Committee of the Red Cross.