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Ukraine: UNHCR Operational Update, October 2020

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Ukraine
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UNHCR
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In October, UNHCR facilitated three convoys transferring COVID-19 related assistance to non-government controlled Donetsk and Luhansk where serious shortages of medical supplies were reported. The oxygen concentrators and personal protective equipment were handed over to specialized medical centres. More operational highlights on page 2.

As civilian movement across the ‘contact line’ remains restricted, UNHCR focused its advocacy efforts on residents from NGCA. UNHCR urges to exempt from self-isolation those persons who undertake short travels to the government-controlled side (GCA) to access state services. See UNHCR Ukraine’s Advocacy Messages on page 3.

In October, UNHCR provided financial assistance to 179 refugees and asylum-seekers with specific needs. This support will help families to cover the most pressing needs – from medical expenses and COVID-19 testing to supporting their children with school education. More on page 4.

Operational Highlights

In October, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE)’s Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) recorded 611 ceasefire violations in eastern Ukraine. This represents a 9 per cent decrease, as compared to September 2020, and continues a general trend that saw a reduction of hostilities as a result of a renewed commitment to the ceasefire. During the reporting period, no damage to civilian houses on both sides of the ‘contact line’ were reported by the UNHCR-led Shelter/NFI Cluster. At the same time, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) confirmed ten conflict-related civilian casualties (one killed and nine injured) which were caused by mine-related and explosive remnants of war (ERW) incidents.

UNHCR-facilitated Convoys with critical COVID-19 Assistance reach Donetsk and Luhansk NGCA: In October, amid growing reports about shortages of medical supplies in the non-government controlled areas (NGCA), UNHCR jointly with OCHA facilitated three humanitarian convoys with COVID-19 related assistance to Donetsk and Luhansk. On 7 October, WHO’s cargo, including over 340 kilograms of oxygen concentrators and medical gloves, was delivered to Luhansk manually through the Entry-Exit Checkpoint (EECP) in Stanytsia Luhanska. On 15 October, twelve trucks transported COVID-19-related items and materials for WASH projects to Luhansk NGCA through the territory of Donetsk NGCA. This assistance belonged to UNHCR, UNICEF and the NGOs People in Need and Médecins du Monde. On 22 October, 47 metric tons of cargo from UNICEF and IOM, including hygiene items and oxygen concentrators, were transferred to Donetsk NGCA.

COVID-19 Response in Shelters for SGBV survivals: In October, UNHCR extended its COVID-19 related assistance to eleven shelters for SGBV survivals and centres for persons with specific needs, such as homeless, IDPs, people living with HIV, those who have a drug or alcohol addiction, or victims of human trafficking. These facilities in seven oblasts of Ukraine received hygiene kits, cleaning liquid, PPE, temperature sensors, washing machines, beds and mattresses.

Supporting the State Migration Service (SMS) with Protective Items: During the reporting period, UNHCR provided 11 protective sneeze guards to three offices of the SMS in Kyiv, Kharkiv and Lviv. This assistance was distributed to improve hygiene conditions for those SMS staff who deal with the Refugee Status Determination procedure and regularly receive in-person applications.

Freedom of Movement and UNHCR’s Response at the EECPs: In October, as the two new EECPs in Zolote and Shchastia (Luhanska oblast) were getting ready to be opened on 10 November, UNHCR undertook regular monitoring visits to these checkpoints to assess the progress of works. To support the opening of the new EECPs, UNHCR provided wheelchairs, furniture and laptops to be used by the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine (SBGS) to facilitate the movement of people, as well as tents which will serve as a warming up area.

During the reporting month, only two out of five EECPs in eastern Ukraine functioned at the limited capacities – in Stanytsia Luhanska and Novotroitske. In October, the SGBS recorded 21,373 crossings across the ‘contact line’ (see UNHCR’s dashboard “Checkpoint Crossing” here). This represents a 75 per cent decrease compared to September and 98 per cent decrease compared to the same period in 2019. From 30 September to 4 October, the checkpoint in Stanytsia Luhanska was closed for civilian crossing due to forest fires in localities along the ‘contact line’. As a result of the fires, 11 people died and over 500 buildings were destroyed, including a first aid centre and a waiting area at the EECP. Since 15 October, the functioning of the checkpoint was further restricted by the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) Command due to the growing number of COVID-19 cases. Only a limited number of persons were allowed to cross in both directions on humanitarian grounds. Those willing to enter GCA were required to apply for a permit from the JFO, while crossing to NGCA was allowed for people holding residence registration there.

At the Novotroitske/Olenivka EECP, “humanitarian corridors” were authorized by the de facto authorities according to pre-approved lists, allowing for over 1,600 persons to cross the ‘contact line’ in both directions. In October, UNHCR’s NGO partner R2P resumed its regular monitoring survey at the EECPs. To analyze the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on persons who cross, the questionnaire was updated with new questions. The survey revealed that visiting relatives and accessing administrative services, such as pensions, remain key reasons for travelling across the ‘contact line’ for residents of NGCA. More information is available at the joint UNHCR-R2P snapshot “Crossing the contact line”.