Bitter cold adds to misery in conflict-affected Eastern Ukraine

News Hour:

IOM teams in Eastern Ukraine are responding with urgent aid as bitterly cold winter conditions add to the misery of hundreds of thousands of people affected by the sharp escalation of conflict in recent days.

Hostilities spiked at the end of January in and around the cities of Donetsk, Horlivka and Yasynuvata on the non-government controlled side and the cities of Mariupol, Avdiivka and Verkhnyotoretske and other smaller settlements in the areas under government control.

Apart from imperiling civilians, the fighting has impacted infrastructure – including the coking plant in Avdiivka (crucial to the region’s steel output) and one of the water filtration stations that serve Donetsk. Displacement is taking place on both sides, with hundreds of thousands of civilians at risk of losing all access to water, heat and electricity as temperatures plummet towards -20° Celsius.

IOM, with funding from the EU, US and Norway, and with the help of implementing partners on the ground, has been able to continue to provide humanitarian assistance, despite the renewed heavy fighting. It has also arranged additional aid distributions to help people during the freezing weather conditions.

In government-controlled areas, IOM distributed hygiene supplies to 100 vulnerable families in Verkhnyotoretske as part of an ECHO-funded programme. They included elderly people, people with disabilities, single parents and families with extremely low incomes.

IOM also distributed hygiene kits and bulk hygiene supplies to 1,335 displaced people and other vulnerable individuals in centres in Donetsk (including the airport area), Horlivka and Yasynuvata.

“The needs in the areas affected by the intensified clashes were further increased by new displacements,” explained IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission Manfred Profazi. “There is still a huge need for hygiene items to ensure dignified living conditions and prevent outbreaks of disease.”

These actions are part of IOM’s wider response plan, which includes the rehabilitation of water and sanitation facilities in collective centres to cater for the increased caseload; the distribution of coal to vulnerable households affected by the recent shelling; and the procurement of generators, wood heaters and other equipment for medical and social institutions to enable them to withstand the low temperatures in the event of protracted electricity cuts.

According to the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine, almost 10,000 people — including members of Ukraine’s armed forces and armed groups, as well as civilians, have been killed and more than 23,000 injured since the start of the conflict almost three years ago. Over 2,000 of these casualties were civilians.

Stephen O’Brien, Under Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, said the latest escalation of violence was exacerbating the ongoing needs of some 3.8 million civilians who continue to bear the brunt of the protracted conflict. More than 70 percent of people in need are women, children and the elderly.

This article has been posted by a News Hour Correspondent. For queries, please contact through [email protected]
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