With ongoing peace talks failing to make any significant progress, Russia continues its offensive in the east, leading to the surrender of the Ukrainian troops in Mariupol. However Ukrainian counter-offensives have pushed back Russian forces from Kharkiv. Across Ukraine, air strikes and missile attacks have targeted key infrastructure, notably the railway network which has lost 23% of its tracks since the start of the invasion in February. This large-scale destruction is limiting both evacuations of civilians from conflict-affected areas and transport of relief items. Insecurity and logistic challenges also hamper humanitarian efforts, particularly in the East, South and the North-East of the country.
The most recent figure for internally displaced persons within Ukraine was just over 8 million (May 03), with some cities and towns being emptied of over half of their populations in conflict-affected areas on both sides of the line of control.
In addition, approximately 6.55 million people have fled to neighbouring countries. Yet, with more than 2 million border crossings registered into Ukraine, there may also be significant numbers of Ukrainians returning, (although where these returns are temporary or definitive is not yet known). Many refugees intend to remain in the neighbouring countries until the war ends, and concerns are rising from both host governments and host communities regarding the potential impact of the refugee influx on livelihoods and access to essential services as well as what long-term solutions for local integration are possible.
Southern and Eastern oblasts have the highest levels of insecurity and highest percentage of households adopting consumption-based mechanisms such as reducing portion sizes, cutting down on meals, or eating less preferred or less expensive food. According to data collected by WFP, (in March and early April), close to half of the populations in Donetsk, Khersonska and Luhanska were food insecure.
This situation can be partly explained by the lack of access to these areas (restricting the influx of goods) but also by the lack of income and cash, restricting households to access essential items and services. Needs differ somewhat between conflict-affected areas and the other parts of the country. The lack of products’ availability is pushing people to prefer in-kind assistance in conflict-affected areas rather than cash, which is the preferred type of assistance of people residing in the west. Access to food and essential goods is also an issue for the displaced people inside and outside of Ukraine with higher prices due to inflation and a lack of income resulting from barriers to employment. By mid-April one in two IDP households in Ukraine were food insecure.
Destruction of health facilities coupled with the lack of essential medications are restricting access to healthcare, notably in the conflict-affected areas. The numerous injuries and trauma caused by the ongoing conflict are adding additional burden on health facilities and increasing short and long-term needs. This is pushing the health sector into a particularly grave situation in conflict-affected areas.
According to the WFP survey, around 40% of respondents in Luhanska, Chernihivska, Khersonska, and Donetska reported that in the previous two weeks they did not have access to health care when they needed to. Health services in areas hosting IDPs and in neighbouring countries are also getting overstretched with a lack of capacities and resources. GBVrelated services and mental health provision are particular gaps despite very high needs.
Protection threats continue to be flagged across Ukraine and within countries hosting refugees. The main challenge underlined these past weeks is the lack of protection support for the population. This is the case for elderly, children and people with disabilities who could not evacuate from conflict-affected areas but also for children (notably separated and unaccompanied), women, minorities and third-country nationals within the displaced population. The unknown situation of Ukrainian civilians deported to the Republic of Russia is also of concern as they may face various protection risks. However, judicial response to human rights violations shows its first steps as the first war crime trial of the conflict was held in Ukraine.
Access to accommodation in areas hosting IDPs and in host countries faces particular issues with rent increases and lower housing availability. Accommodation remains as one of the most urgent needs of both IDPs (92% of respondents citing it as a priority according to REACH) and refugees.
Long-term solutions are not yet implemented, and concerns are rising on the sustainability of the current situation.
Education facilities continue to be damaged or destroyed and access to education is a challenge across all affected groups. Those in conflict-affected areas may not have access to online learning or places conducive to learning. Displaced children also face difficulties although provisions for refugee children to enrol in local education systems and for displaced children to access online schooling are being stepped up.