The United Nations refugee agency has managed to deliver aid for the first time in over two months to areas of eastern Ukraine beyond Government control where two million people are in urgent need of assistance, reaching 12,000 people – a “small drop in the ocean of needs” – with plans to expand greatly as the harsh winter sets in.
The vital aid, including plastic sheeting, construction material and thousands of blankets, reached the city of Luhansk in a convoy of nine trucks on Saturday, the first UN convoy to reach the city in three months, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) announced today.
“This is a small drop in the ocean of needs we see in the conflict-affected areas,” said Jean-Noel Wetterwald, agency head of operations for Ukraine, where according to UNHCR, fighting that broke out last year has displaced over two million people within the country and abroad, with another two million in need of vital aid in non-Government-controlled areas.
"However, with winter approaching, we hope to speed up the dispatch of humanitarian assistance to the most vulnerable civilians living in the conflict-affected areas," he added.
The last major delivery announced by UNHCR was on September 1 when shelter material and basic relief items reached Horvlika and nearby areas north of Donetsk that suffered heavy fighting in August – the first aid to get through there in several weeks.
The latest delivery included 10,000 blankets, 10,000 towels, 5,000 buckets and a similar number of jerry cans and plastic sheets, as well as cement and timber for shelter repairs. It was unloaded at a warehouse in the city for distribution in a drive that began today.
The convoy is the first of many planned deliveries carrying much needed winterization, domestic items and shelter materials into Luhansk. In the coming weeks, UNHCR is planning to send nearly 1,000 metric tonnes of humanitarian materials and emergency aid for the affected population, while considerably more resources are currently being mobilized for future dispatches in the non-Government-controlled areas.
As winter sets in, conditions are expected to be harsher for people in villages and towns close to the frontline where the conflict has damaged infrastructure and housing.
With restrictions to movement, many people face insecurity and challenges in reaching medical and educational facilities. In some remote locations, access to basic services and goods remain limited, especially for the elderly and ill.
As temperatures fall across the region, shelter assistance has to be delivered fast to those living in buildings that lack windows, doors, roofs and heating. In addition, thousands of displaced people require warm blankets, winter clothing and shoes, as well as coal and heating fuels.