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Ukraine: UNHCR Operational Update, September 2020

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In September, the Government of Ukraine adopted Decree #947, providing a long-advocated administrative mechanism for the compensation of property destroyed as a result of the conflict. UNHCR will monitor this process and provide necessary support to those entitled to compensations. See UNHCR Ukraine’s Advocacy Messages on page 3.

UNHCR resumed its shelter activities in the non-government controlled areas (NGCA) in Luhansk. This became possible after UNHCR delivered a humanitarian convoy with over 90 metric tons of shelter materials across the ‘contact line’. More operational highlights on page 2.

With support from the Embassies of Norway and Switzerland, UNHCR organized an online ceremony to hand over the Europe Regional Winner of the Nansen Refugee Award to Ukrainian human rights activist Tetiana Barantsova. She was selected for this prestigious award for her efforts helping IDPs and conflict-affected persons with disabilities in Ukraine.
More on page 4.

Operational Highlights

In September, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) recorded 669 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine. This represents a 14 per cent increase, as compared to August. During the reporting period, the UNHCR-led Shelter/NFI Cluster reported about 15 civilian houses that had been damaged or destroyed as a result of the conflict. These were the first damages recorded by the Cluster since the renewed commitment to the ceasefire came into effect in July 2020.

UNHCR’s Convoy with Shelter Materials reached Luhansk NGCA: On 10 September, UNHCR delivered a humanitarian convoy carrying construction materials for its shelter programme in Luhansk NGCA. This was the first time that UNHCR was able to deliver a humanitarian convoy to Luhansk NGCA through Donetsk NGCA since COVID-19 movement restrictions were imposed in March. In total, ten trucks transferred over 90 metric tons of materials for house repairs. With the arrival of the convoy, UNHCR resumed its shelter activities implemented through a private contractor in Luhansk NGCA (for more, see page 10).

UNHCR’s Response to COVID-19: In September, the Ministry of Health recorded a significant increase in COVID-19 cases throughout Ukraine. In conflict-affected Donetska and Luhanska oblasts, 2,835 new cases were reported, or a 164 per cent increase, as compared to August. During the reporting month, UNHCR distributed 90 bottles (5L each) of alcohol-based cleaning liquid to the Social Centres for Youth, Children and Families in Popasna, Stanytsia Luhanska and Novoaidar districts and Sievierodonetsk city in Luhanska oblast in order to support efforts aimed at maintaining proper hygiene conditions. In total, since the start of the pandemic, UNHCR jointly with its NGO partners launched 50 Peaceful Coexistence Projects (PCPs) and Quick Impact Projects (QIPs), as well as 47 Community Support Initiatives (CSIs) to improve the preparedness of medical facilities and social services providers on both sides of the ‘contact line’.

Supporting Families Affected by the Wildfires in Luhanska oblast: In September, massive wildfires in Luhanska oblast caused significant damages in localities along the ‘contact line’. By the end of the reporting period, four persons had died and several hundred were evacuated from the affected areas. Approximately two hundred houses were damaged by fires, including homes of persons displaced as a result of the conflict. After the fires spread to the areas near the Entry-Exit Checkpoint (EECP) in Stanytsia Luhanska, the operation of the checkpoint was suspended from 30 September to 5 October. UNHCR is involved in assessing the needs of affected persons. As an initial response, UNHCR and its NGO partner Proliska provided 50 thermal blankets, hygiene items, food and water, as well as psychosocial support to persons who lost their homes.

Situation at the EECPs and UNHCR Response: During the reporting period, the State Border Guards Service of Ukraine (SGBS) recorded 85,799 crossings across the ‘contact line’ in eastern Ukraine (see UNHCR’s dashboard “Checkpoint Crossing” here). This represents a 6 per cent increase compared to August. At the same time, the number of crossings remains significantly lower compared to the same period in 2019 (a 93 per cent decrease). Of the five EECPs in eastern Ukraine, only two checkpoints in Stanytsia Luhanska (Luhanska oblast) and Novotroitske/Olenivka (Donetska oblast) were able to function with restrictions. At the Novotroitske/Olenivka EECP, eight “humanitarian corridors” were authorized by the de facto authorities according to pre-approved lists allowing for 2,557 persons to cross the ‘contact line’ in both directions. Since 18 September, people waiting for permission to cross through this EECP, were no longer staying overnight in the tents of the State Emergency Service of Ukraine (SESU). The Donetsk Oblast Administration accommodated them in a social centre in the town of Druzhkivka. Throughout the reporting period, UNHCR advocated with the state and regional authorities for allocation of funds to ensure the provision of food at the health facility in Hostre which serves as an observation point for those who crossed from NGCA. Currently, these needs are covered by humanitarian actors who can provide food and in-kind assistance until October. At the Stanytsia Luhanska EECP, 83,202 crossings were recorded in September. Of them, 16,147 individuals were transported by two electric cars operated by UNHCR and its NGO partner Proliska to help persons with specific needs to cross an 800-metres long passage between the two sides of the checkpoint. As there were no vacant places in the observation facilities in Luhanska oblast, on average three persons stayed under the shed overnight at the neutral area at this EECP daily.