Ukraine

Situation Report

Highlights

  • As of 19 October 2020, there are 303,638 people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Government-controlled areas of Ukraine, including 9,600 cases in eastern Ukraine.
  • There are reportedly 6,630 confirmed COVID-19 cases in areas beyond Government control, including 413 deaths.
  • Operation of crossing points in eastern Ukraine lacks a coordinated, systematic approach.
  • Since the start of the conflict in 2014, the fundamental human right to education of children in eastern Ukraine has been under threat.
viber image 2020-08-12 13-00-51
An elderly woman is standing in the yard of her house (eastern Ukraine, GCA). Photo: OCHA Ukraine

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Ukraine

Situation Report

Key Figures

3.4M
People in need
2.1M
People targeted
56
Partners
122
Projects

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Ukraine

Situation Report

Funding

$204.7M
Required
$82.1M
Received
40%
Progress
FTS

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Contacts

Ignacio Leon Garcia

Head of Office

Anvar Munavvarov

Geneva Desk Officer

Lizaveta Zhuk

Public Information/Reporting

Ukraine

Situation Report
Trends

COVID-19 update (Government-controlled areas)

Ministry of Health of Ukraine confirms 303,638 as of 19 October.

  • First case: 29 February 2020

  • Total cases: 303,638 (as of 19 October 2020)

  • Total deaths: 5,673

  • States affected: All 24 oblasts

  • Luhanska oblast (GCA): 2,467 confirmed cases (43 deaths)

  • Donetska oblast (GCA): 7,133 confirmed cases (77 deaths)

  • Borders/flights: Ukraine re-opened all crossing points with neighbouring countries (i.e., Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, and Slovakia), though some of them operate partially (only for pedestrian/vehicle crossing). Ukraine also resumed international and domestic passenger flights from 15 June 2020 and international bus services (with countries allowing entry/exit) from 17 June 2020.

    A temporary ban on the entry of foreign nationals to Ukraine, which had been introduced at the end of August due to the epidemiological situation, ended on 28 September. Currently, to cross the border into Ukraine, foreigners and stateless persons, with some exceptions, are required to provide proof of medical insurance that is valid in Ukraine for the duration of the stay that will provide coverage of costs associated with the treatment of COVID-19, as well as any necessary observation period. Furthermore, travellers from the ‘red zone’ countries are required to self-quarantine for two weeks unless they provide a negative PCR test result.

  • Containment measures: In mid-March, the Government of Ukraine imposed quarantine restrictions to minimize the risk of transmission across the country, including in the conflict-affected area of eastern Ukraine. In May, these restrictions began to ease based on the fulfillment of criteria adopted on both sides of the ‘contact line'. In the Government-controlled areas, the adaptive quarantine was introduced to counter the spread of the virus. Oblasts are divided into the ‘red/orange/yellow/green’ COVID-19 risk level regions based on two indicators (starting from 28 September): the COVID-19 hospital bed occupancy and COVID-19 incidence rate. The COVID-19 restrictive measures are implemented in cities and raions within oblasts in accordance with their risk levels.

  • Due to the increasing number of new COVID-19 cases, the Government of Ukraine strengthened COVID-19 preventative measures starting from 12 October. All schools are expected to be closed for a school break for two weeks until 30 October. In addition, vocational schools and higher education facilities are recommended to switch to online learning from 15 October to 15 November. The adaptive quarantine currently in place was extended on 13 October through at least the end of 2020.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Trends

COVID-19 update (non-Government controlled areas)

Local sources reportedly confirm 6,630 COVID-19 cases as of 19 October

  • Total cases: 6,630 (413 deaths)

  • Luhanska oblast (NGCA): 1,352 cases (64 deaths). First case: 31 March 2020

  • Donetska oblast (NGCA): 5,278 cases (349 deaths). First case: 29 March 2020

  • Overview of containment measures: Luhanska and Donetska oblast (NGCA) adopted quarantine measures similar to those in Government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine at the end of March 2020. As part of easing quarantine restrictions, both NGCA oblasts lifted restrictions on travelling to the Russian Federation and partially lifted restrictions on travelling between Donetska and Luhanska oblasts (NGCA). Yet, only people with permanent residency in Donetska/Luhanska oblasts (NGCA) are allowed to cross between NGCAs to travel to their respective place of permanent residence.

    In early October, due to a growing number of COVID-19 and pneumonia cases, COVID-19 restrictive measures were strengthened again. Luhanska oblast (NGCA) introduced a two-week observation in a medical facility for people arriving from countries with an unfavourable epidemiological situation (e.g., China, Italy, Spain, etc.), apart from those travelling from the Russian Federation and Donetska oblast (NGCA). Alternatively, people arriving from the Russian Federation may provide a negative result of a PCR test conducted in the Russian Federation no later than three days before the arrival.

    In late September-early October, both Donetska and Luhanska oblasts (NGCA) recommended all companies to use telecommuting and remote working modalities where possible. People above 65 years old were recommended to self-quarantine. Donetska and Luhanska oblasts (NGCA) also re-imposed a ban on outdoor mass gatherings and visitation to administrative institutions. Both oblasts (NGCA) intend to strengthen control over the compliance with the COVID-19-related restrictive measures.

    To further curb the spread of the virus, in early October, both Luhanska and Donetska oblasts (NGCA) introduced remote learning modalities in higher educational facilities and announced an early school break from 5 October (first for two and then for three weeks in Luhanska oblast and three weeks in Donetska oblast). Donetska oblast (NGCA) also extended e-learning modalities to vocational and professional training schools and prolonged remote learning arrangements until 25 October. For the duration of school holidays, Luhanska oblast (NGCA) also shut down cinemas, clubs, and other entertainment facilities.

  • In the meantime, only two of the five official crossing points allow people to cross the ‘contact line’ (’Stanytsia Luhanska’ in Luhanska oblast and ’Novotroitske’ in Donetska oblast). On 13 October, the Joint Forces Operation (JFO) Command announced that they would temporarily close the 'Stanytsia Luhanska' entry/exit crossing point between 15 and 31 October due to the increase in prevalence of COVID-19 in Luhanska oblast. Luhanska oblast (NGCA) made the similar announcement on 16 October. To a large extent, crossings have been limited to those who have been granted humanitarian exemptions negotiated by the humanitarian community. In addition, people have been allowed to cross based on the pre-approved lists issued in NGCA. For more information on the crossing measures enforced by relevant parties, please refer to the analysis of the crossing of the ‘contact line’ below.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Analysis
зображення viber 2020-06-25 15-11-23
A parent with a child is crossing the 'contact line' in eastern Ukraine through a mostly deserted crossing point. Photo: UNHCR Ukraine

Operation of crossing points in eastern Ukraine lacks a coordinated, systematic approach

On 21 March 2020, all entry/exit crossing points (EECPs) along the 427-kilometer ‘contact line’ in eastern Ukraine were closed in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. Before the closure, people living in both Government and non-Government controlled areas (GCA and NGCA) crossed the ‘contact line’ an average of 1.2 million times each month to reach social and administrative services, visit banks, access health care and education, withdraw pensions, and to visit family and loved ones. During the summer, the rates were even higher, averaging 1.3 million crossings per month. Half a year after the introduction of COVID-19-related quarantine measures, most EECPs remain closed, with only two of the five official crossing points allowing people to cross the ‘contact line’ (EECP ‘Stanytsia Luhanska’ in Luhanska oblast and EECP ‘Novotroitske’ in Donetska oblast). Since the closure in March, there has been a gradual easing of quarantine restrictions and adoption of procedures to allow humanitarian exemptions to permit people with acute needs to cross, leading to an increase in the number of civilian crossings of the ‘contact line’. In August, almost 84,000 people were able to cross compared to 37,700 in July and 17,700 in June. While the number of crossings in August is the highest since the introduction of COVID-19 restrictions, it represents only 7 per cent of the 1.3 million crossings during August 2019.

NGCA-imposed measures concerning crossing the ‘contact line’

To a large extent, crossings to both GCA and NGCA have been limited to those who have been granted humanitarian exemptions advocated for by the humanitarian community. These exemptions include the death or illness of a close relative, as well as severe or chronic illness requiring urgent medical intervention. In addition to those receiving humanitarian exemptions for crossing, people who have official residency in any oblast on either side of the ‘contact line’ are permitted to return to their place of official residency. People are permitted to cross to NGCA if they have been included on lists pre-approved by NGCA entities in control. All people crossing are subject to two weeks of either self-quarantine or observation in a health facility upon arrival. NGCA of Luhanska and Donetska oblasts have different approaches to including people on pre-approved lists.

In Luhanska oblast (NGCA), permanent residents may enter the territory by showing relevant documents that confirm their residency status. People without permanent residency may enter if they have humanitarian reasons that fall within approved criteria and have been included in a pre-approved list. In order to be included in such a list for crossing, people must contact a responsible entity in Luhanska oblast (NGCA) by phone or e-mail. It usually takes up to two weeks for the request to be processed. As of 25 September, people with residency in NGCA of Luhanska oblast are limited to just one crossing per month.

In Donetska oblast (NGCA), only people included on pre-approved lists based on humanitarian exemptions are allowed to enter. Reportedly it can take up to a month to be included on the list by a responsible entity in Donetska oblast (NGCA) despite having humanitarian reasons for crossing. Furthermore, only people with a permanent residency in GCA are permitted to leave Donetska oblast (NGCA). Reportedly, those who cross to GCA are required to sign a document declaring that they will not return to NGCA of Donetska oblast until the official quarantine period ends. Until mid-September, all those crossing to Donetska oblast (NGCA) were required to complete their mandatory 14-day self-quarantine/observation in a designated facility. Now, people crossing to Donetska oblast (NGCA) can take a COVID-19 express test and, subject to negative results, can self-quarantine at the place of residence/stay. The discrepancies in the approaches of two NGCAs and the difference in crossing points’ operations (twice a week in Donetska oblast and every day in Luhanska oblast) have resulted in a striking difference in the number of crossings between the two oblasts. In August 2020, 96 per cent of all crossings of the ‘contact line’ took place in Luhanska oblast (80,600).

Government of Ukraine-imposed measures concerning crossing the ‘contact line’

Entrance to GCA from NGCA is primarily conditioned by the Government of Ukraine’s (GOU) requirement for self-quarantine/observation. The GOU does not impose restrictions on people crossing from GCA to NGCA. Those people who seek to cross to GCA are mandated by the Government of Ukraine to undergo mandatory self-isolation monitored through a smartphone app called ‘Dii Vdoma’ [‘Act at Home’]. Self-isolation can be ended early with a negative result of a COVID-19 test. These tests are relatively expensive, and therefore not an option for the most vulnerable population. If those crossing to GCA do not have a smartphone or are unable to use the app, they must agree to observation in a designated facility. From 7 September, an exception was introduced by the GoU to allow entry without self-isolation for students from NGCA enrolled in, intending to enter or studying in GCA educational facilities. An NGCA student can also be accompanied by one caretaker (parent, guardian, or another authorized representative) during the crossing who is also not required to self-isolate. The requirement to use a smartphone app to monitor self-isolation has prevented people without smartphones or internet connection from crossing the ‘contact line’. The alternative option of observation in a designated facility is not always available due to the limited capacity of the GCA observation facilities. Moreover, occasional malfunctioning of the ‘Dii Vdoma’ app, which has been reported a few times, has resulted in people getting stuck at the ‘contact line’ for several hours while waiting for the app to start working again. Humanitarian and other actors continue to provide assistance to people who have become stuck at the EECPs with food, water, and other basic supplies, however, greater efforts are required to prevent these situations from happening in the future.

NGCA pensioners remain blocked from their pensions in GCA

With a 93 per cent drop in the number of people crossing the ‘contact line’, those most impacted by the closure are the elderly, who are unable to withdraw their pensions in areas under Government control. It is estimated that more than one million people have been impacted by the closure, including some 300,000 elderly and 163,000 vulnerable persons who have not been able to cross the ‘contact line’ since late March. After six months without access to the only source of income for many of them, pensioners are forced to find alternative ways to survive, including by depleting their savings, borrowing or by accessing their pensions through costly and legally challenging routes.

In her statement on the International Day of Peace (celebrated annually on 21 September), the Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine Osnat Lubrani underscored that for six months hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people in Donbas have not been able to receive their pensions, have severely depleted their resources and need urgent assistance to get through the upcoming seventh winter of the conflict. Ms. Lubrani also called upon all relevant actors to facilitate the safe crossing of more people with critical needs.

The continued gradual re-opening of the ‘contact line’ is necessary to prevent further deepening of people’s vulnerabilities stemming from COVID-19-related restrictions, compounded by the ongoing armed conflict. As the COVID-19 pandemic is likely to continue for months to come, relevant actors should ensure a more predictable and systematic approach to the operation of the EECPs so that the crossing procedures are efficient, well-coordinated and realistic as well as clearly communicated to the population, to facilitate the safe crossing of the ‘contact line’ for all people with humanitarian reasons while minimizing the risk of COVID-19 transmission.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Analysis
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UNICEF/2019/Filippov

Education under threat for youth in eastern Ukraine

More than six years of armed conflict in eastern Ukraine has led to a chaotic and fragmented educational system and had a profound impact on the well-being of the nearly 670,000 school-aged children living in the region. The global COVID-19 pandemic has further compounded these problems. A recently issued report by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) to Ukraine on attacks on education sheds light on the challenges that youth in eastern Ukraine face in accessing education amid the ongoing armed conflict and health crisis.

Since the start of the conflict in 2014, the fundamental human right to education of children in eastern Ukraine has been under threat. Shelling and small-arms fire has damaged schools and other key civilian infrastructure. According to the OSCE report, since 2015, 93 educational facilities have been damaged in more than 40 settlements across Luhanska and Donetska oblasts, resulting in nine casualties, including three fatalities. Between January 2016 and March 2020, over a dozen children were killed and over 55 were injured by landmines and explosive devices. This constant exposure to violence, combined with the stress associated with the economic downturn and the recent pandemic, poses long-term threats to both youth and educators.

Students living in settlements close to the ‘contact line’ have had the most difficulty accessing schools. Class attendance has been disrupted by physical attacks on schools, weak transport links, COVID-19-related restrictions and the physical barrier of the ‘contact line’, which separates some schools from the communities they historically served. Even before the imposition of COVID-19 restrictions, school closures were a common occurrence, with some schools closed for months or indefinitely after being repeatedly damaged by shelling. Although, according to the Ukraine Education Cluster, some 400 educational facilities received aid between January 2017 and June 2019 to repair conflict-related damage, it has been difficult for schools located within close proximity to the ‘contact line’ to secure funds due to the likelihood that they will be damaged again. This has resulted in some schools being shut down, with children having to travel further distances to access education.

Already prior to the pandemic, the lack of transportation in rural, isolated communities along the ‘contact line’ posed challenges for children in eastern Ukraine to attend school. In 2019, some 5,000 children from non-Government controlled areas (NGCA) were enrolled in distance learning as a result of school closures and mobility restrictions. This figure has likely risen during the last quarter of the 2020 school year due to the constraints on movement imposed by the health crisis. Although schools in conflict-affected areas have resumed in-person teaching this September, the number of new COVID-19 cases has doubled in the past month in Government-controlled areas (GCA), indicating that schools might need to return to distance learning. More than half of children residing close to the ‘contact line’ were left without adequate access to education during quarantine due to the introduction of remote learning arrangements because they lacked equipment or internet access.  

In addition to the physical impacts of the conflict, children and educators alike have been affected psychologically. In a UNICEF report on the situation of children living near the 'contact line', over three-quarters of school directors and teachers interviewed in areas near the 'contact line' noted strong behavioral changes in students since the beginning of the conflict. In heavily shelled districts in particular, numerous children show symptoms consistent with post-traumatic stress disorder. UNICEF estimates that some 430,000 children live with psychological wounds and need ongoing support to address the emotional trauma of growing up in a prolonged conflict. An alarming 22.5 percent of adolescents in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts are at risk of developing clinical levels of internalizing or externalizing problems in adulthood. The deteriorating economic situation in the region has also contributed to feelings of anxiety and insecurity among many families. Despite these concerns, according to the report from the OSCE, 80 per cent of schools visited by the SMM in 2018 and 2019 had no psychologists on staff. Although psychological support is often available through humanitarian actors in GCA, access is limited in NGCA. 

The conflict has not only disrupted children’s present reality in eastern Ukraine, but their futures too. Education can be a lifeline for children growing up surrounded by violence and a building block to a more stable and peaceful society. Yet, the psychological impacts of the conflict and barriers to accessing education are threatening to compromise the well-being and future of an entire generation. As the new school year begins, humanitarian actors in eastern Ukraine continue to find ways to ensure that children can access their basic right to education while preventing the transmission of the virus. The recently announced ceasefire, if proved sustainable, presents a window of opportunity to repair schools damaged by the conflict, and brings renewed hope for children to be able to learn in a more safe and secure environment.  

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Visual

Crossing Points Snapshot (August 2020)

Crossing Points Snapshot (August 2020)

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Situation Report
Visual

Humanitarian Snapshot (August 2020)

Humanitarian Snapshot (August 2020)

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Background
Map of Eastern Ukraine
Eastern Ukraine with the 427-km long "contact line" and five checkpoints

Humanitarian Context

Now in its seventh year, the conflict in Donetska and Luhanska oblasts in eastern Ukraine continues to significantly impact the lives of more than five million people living in the region, 3.4 million of whom require humanitarian assistance and protection services. Since the start of the conflict in 2014, more than 3,350 civilian men, women and children have been killed and another 7,000 have been injured. As the crisis persists, civilians continue to bear the brunt of the conflict. Fear of shelling, violent clashes, and the threat of landmines and explosive remnants of war are the daily reality for millions of people living on both sides of the more than 420 kilometer-long ‘contact line’ -- equivalent to the length of the French-German border. Today, eastern Ukraine is considered one of the most mine-contaminated areas in the world.

The conflict has severely impacted the quality of life in eastern Ukraine, with daily hostilities damaging critical infrastructure and often disrupting essential water and sanitation services. Many people are increasingly affected by mental health issues, both due to the fear of violence as well as the long-term socio-economic impacts of the conflict. Once considered the industrial heartland of Ukraine, the region of Donbas has experienced a sharp decline in economic activities since 2014. The quality of life for those who have stayed has declined, with job security a persistent challenge. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated many of these challenges, as well as access constraints for Government- and non-Government controlled areas.

Prior to the closure of the ‘contact line’ due to the COVID-19-related restrictions, which separates Government and non-Government controlled areas, an estimated 1.1 million people regularly crossed each month to access vital services or visit family. Many waited long hours in the bitter winter cold or in the scorching summer heat to reach the other side. The journey was particularly arduous for the elderly, who account for more than 30 per cent of people in need in eastern Ukraine, the highest proportion of elderly living in a conflict-affected area in the world.

Despite enormous challenges, the UN and its humanitarian partners continue to deliver lifesaving assistance to millions of people across the country. In 2019, more than 1.3 million people benefited from some form of humanitarian assistance and protection services. Since 2014, over US$500 million has been mobilized through humanitarian response plans.

The humanitarian response in eastern Ukraine is coordinated through six clusters: Shelter and Non-Food Items; Protection; Health and Nutrition; Education; Water, Sanitation and Hygiene; and Food Security and Livelihoods. Cluster partners conduct joint assessments, coordinate the response, and monitor humanitarian assistance and programming. They also provide relief and early recovery supplies, including food and non-food items, water, shelter materials, medicine, psycho-social support and hygienic and education kits, as well as cash assistance. Other urgent humanitarian assistance provided by the clusters includes the provision of farming inputs, mine clearance, mine-risk education, and personal protective equipment, as well as other protection services.

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Media

COVID-19 has put additional strain on the already-fragile health system in conflict-torn Donbas. Ukraine Humanitarian Fund supports health providers to do contact tracing in eastern Ukraine to contain the spread of the virus.

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