Ukraine

Situation Report

Highlights

  • As of 18 May 2021, there are 2,160,095 people confirmed to have COVID-19 in Government-controlled areas of Ukraine, including 112,245 cases in eastern Ukraine.
  • As of 18 May 2021, there were reportedly 40,358 confirmed COVID-19 cases in areas beyond Government control.
  • Ukraine’s population readiness to get a COVID-19 vaccine remains relatively low compared with other Western countries.
  • A year in review: movement restrictions across the “contact line” in eastern Ukraine
Chermalyk village, Donetska oblast, GCA, Ukraine.
Nataliia hugs her three children in the yard of her house located right at the “contact line”. Photo: OCHA/Yevhen Maloletka

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Ukraine

Situation Report

Key Figures

3.4M
People in need
1.9M
People targeted
120
Partners
96
Projects

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Ukraine

Situation Report

Funding

$168M
Required
$23.3M
Received
14%
Progress
FTS

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Contacts

Ignacio Leon Garcia

Head of Office

Anvar Munavvarov

Desk Officer

Lizaveta Zhuk

Head of Public Information & Reporting Unit

Ukraine

Situation Report
Trends

COVID-19 update (Government-controlled areas)

Ministry of Health of Ukraine confirms 2,160,095 cases as of 18 May 2021.

  • First case: 29 February 2020 .

  • Total cases: 2,160,095 (as of 18 May 2021)

  • Total deaths: 48,469.

  • People vaccinated: 948,325 received the first dose as of 18 May 2021, and 27,454 persons received both doses.

  • Luhanska oblast (GCA): 25,396 confirmed cases (2,711 active cases and 833 deaths); 19,880 persons received the first dose of the vaccine, and 185 both doses.

  • Donetska oblast (GCA): 86,849 confirmed cases (10,104 active cases and 2,061 deaths); 41,451 persons received the first dose of the vaccine, and 493 both doses.

  • Borders/flights: On 13 March 2020, Ukraine closed 94 crossing points and suspended pedestrian crossing through the remaining 49 crossing points with neighbouring countries (i.e., Belarus, Hungary, Moldova, Poland, Romania, the Russian Federation, and Slovakia) to prevent the spread of the virus. On 29 May, Ukraine reopened all crossing points with EU countries and Moldova from its side. On 7 July, Ukraine reopened some crossing points with Belarus and the Russian Federation.

  • 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 after the suspension of international passenger transportation from 17 March 2020.

  • 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, foreign nationals must provide a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours before the arrival. From 2 May 2021, the Government banned entry into Ukraine for foreign nationals and stateless persons who arrived from India or stayed in its territory for at least seven days during 14 days before arrival.

  • 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 be eased based on the fulfilment of criteria adopted on both sides of the “contact line”. In GCA, an adaptive quarantine was introduced to counter the spread of the virus. Oblasts have been 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. The adaptive quarantine currently in place has been extended until 30 June 2021.

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Situation Report
Trends

COVID-19 update (non-Government-controlled areas)

Local sources reportedly confirm 40,358 COVID-19 cases as of 18 May 2021.

  • Total cases: 40,358 (3,397 active cases and 3,100 deaths).

  • Luhanska oblast (NGCA): 4,497 cases (108 active cases and 424 deaths). First case: 31 March 2020.

  • Donetska oblast (NGCA): 35,861 cases (3,289 active cases and 2,676 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). The crossing between the two NGCAs is possible only for people living in NGCA with relevant residence in one of the NGCAs or if the person’s reason for crossing falls under one of the humanitarian exemptions and subject to the crossing request approval. In Donetska oblast (NGCA), to enter NGCA, people also must be included in the pre-approved lists.

  • In early October, due to a growing number of COVID-19 and pneumonia cases, 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.), not including those travelling from the Russian Federation or Donetska oblast (NGCA). Alternatively, people arriving from the Russian Federation may provide a negative result of a PCR test conducted in the Russian Federation within three days prior to arrival.

  • To curb the spread of the virus, in early October, both Luhanska and Donetska oblasts (NGCA) introduced remote learning modalities in higher educational facilities. Later, mixed learning modalities (regular and online classes) were extended to primary and secondary schools. Donetska oblast (NGCA) also extended e-learning modalities to vocational and professional training schools.

  • In the meantime, only two of the five official crossing points allow people to cross the “contact line” (“Stanytsia Luhanska” in Luhanska oblast daily and “Novotroitske”/ “Olenivka” in Donetska oblast on Mondays and Fridays). To a large extent, crossings have been limited to those people 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 on the crossing of the “contact line” below.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Analysis
Per cent of population willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine
Per cent of population willing to get a COVID-19 vaccine [11]

Ukraine’s population readiness to get a COVID-19 vaccine

The COVID-19 pandemic appears to be gaining an even firmer grip on Ukraine over the past few months. On 23 April 2021, the number of confirmed cases surpassed the 2 million mark, doubling just in 4 months. While the epidemiological situation shows few signs of improvement, Ukraine officially started the COVID-19 vaccination campaign on 24 February 2021. As of 12 May, 882,619 people have received the first shot of the COVID-19 vaccine, and 1,928 people are fully vaccinated.

However, at the current vaccination pace, [1] it will take at least five and a half years to administer one dose to the entire adult population of Ukraine if everyone agrees to take a vaccine. [2] Besides, historically, Ukraine’s population has been highly vaccine-hesitant, which is reported to be improving in the past few years. At the same time, on 29 April, the record high vaccination level was registered – 73,256 administered doses per day. If the level of vaccination doesn’t drop below the above on workdays, the vaccination time horizon of the entire adult population with one dose could decrease threefold.

The surveys’ findings presented below attempt to shed light on the population of Ukraine’s attitude to COVID-19 vaccines and what could be expected from the vaccination campaign.

According to a UNICEF-facilitated survey conducted during March, [3] most respondents consider vaccination an effective way of protection against COVID-19: 63 per cent of all respondents would vaccinate free of charge, with 31 per cent only ready to be vaccinated with certain vaccines. Some 70 per cent of respondents consider the vaccination efficient to prevent serious disease progression and 63 per cent believe it to be safe. The key reasons for compliance with vaccination identified by 83 per cent of respondents are to avoid exposure to COVID-19, followed by preventing severe complications and protecting others (66 per cent).

A different survey, conducted in March by the Ukrainian sociological agency, Rating, [4] suggests that only 37 per cent of respondents want to get vaccinated, while 41 per cent would be unlikely get vaccinated. The situation in eastern Ukraine is reported to be slightly worse compared with the rest of Ukraine: 34 per cent are ready to get vaccinated, while almost 50 per cent of respondents would be unlikely to do so. Overall, 71 per cent of respondents consider that mass vaccination will help contain the spread of COVID-19 globally.

WHO’s behavioural research conducted in March 2021 [5] suggests that the Ukrainian population’s attitude to vaccines hasn’t significantly changed since August 2020, with 48 per cent of respondents indicating readiness to take a vaccine if it becomes available. The majority of respondents don’t plan on receiving a COVID-19 vaccine because of concerns over adverse effects followed by concerns about its country of origin. Meanwhile, the ability to see close family members, lifting of restrictions and receiving the vaccine free-of-charge have been indicated among the most common motivators to get vaccinated.

Regarding the country of origin of vaccines, the respondents of the Rating survey [6] reported the most trust in vaccines produced in the United Kingdom, United States and countries of the European Union (around 50 per cent). Respondents have the least confidence in vaccines made in China (17 per cent), Russia (19 per cent) and India (30 per cent).

It is estimated that Ukraine has so far secured around 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccine doses, [7] including around 484,200 through the COVAX facility (367,200 AstraZeneca-SKBio and 117,000 Pfizer vaccines). [8] There are reports that Ukraine has deals to procure additional 10 million doses of Pfizer vaccine in 2021, and 2.2 to 3.7 million doses of AstraZeneca/Oxford are expected to be provided by the COVAX facility in the first six months of 2021.

Despite the contradictory attitudes to COVID-19 vaccination, over the past five years, the support for the vaccination of children against various diseases has increased: 65 per cent support these vaccinations unequivocally and an additional 24 per cent would rather support the vaccination of children against diseases such as polio, measles, tuberculosis, Hepatitis B and diphtheria. [9] Yet, Ukraine’s population readiness to get a COVID-19 vaccine is still one of the lowest compared with other European countries, including its closest neighbours, as well as the United States and Canada. The first stage of Ukraine’s vaccination campaign has also shown worrying results: only 3 per cent of the population above 85 years old has been vaccinated so far. [10]

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[1] According to National Security Council of Ukraine, 380,448 received one shot of COVID-19 vaccine in April 2021 and 245,593 in March 2021.

[2] According to the Ukraine Census Database, the total population of Ukraine is: 41.7 million, including 34.2 million residents aged 18 or older.

[3] UNICEF-facilitated survey conducted by the Info Sapiens agency with the USAID financial support, 22 April 2021.

[4] Rating Sociological Agency, Vaccination In Ukraine: Barriers And Possibilities, 18-19 March 2021.

[5]  WHO Behavioural insights (BI) on COVID-19 in Ukraine. Wave 11 data collection: March 20-22, 2021

[6] Rating Sociological Agency, Vaccination in Ukraine: Barriers and Possibilities, 18-19 March 2021.

[7] National Security Council of Ukraine, Procurement of COVID-19 Vaccines.

[8] COVAX is a global initiative aimed at equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines led by Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations, and the World Health Organization.

[9] Rating Sociological Agency, Vaccination in Ukraine: Barriers and Possibilities, 18-19 March 2021.

[10] Ukrinform, Vaccination of People Aged 65 and Above Has Started Earlier than Planned, 29 April 2021.

[11] Reuters, Europe’s Vaccine Hesitancy, 1 April 2021.

Aarhus University, Sustained COVID-19 Vaccine Willingness in Denmark Following the Rare Cases of Blood Clots, 9 April 2021.

Statista, Average Willingness to Get Vaccinated Against COVID-19 in Central and Eastern Europe In 2020, by country, December 2020.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Analysis
People are waiting to cross the "contact line" in eastern Ukraine.
People are waiting to cross the "contact line" in eastern Ukraine. Photo: OCHA/ Yevhen Maloletka

A year in review: movement restrictions across the “contact line” in eastern Ukraine

On 22 March 2020, all entry/exit crossing points (EECPs) along the “contact line” were almost completely sealed off in an attempt to contain the spread of COVID-19. This past year, only a fraction of individual crossings that had occurred before the nearly complete closure of the “contact line” was observed: 3 per cent of 1.2 million monthly crossings on average. The year-long restrictions on movement triggered by COVID-19 have left hundreds of thousands of people without access to social entitlements, basic services and have torn them from their families and friends. Residents of non-Government-controlled areas (NGCA), especially people over 60 years old, have been most affected.

Level of crossings across the “contact line”

In March 2021, the level of civilian crossings across the “contact line” in eastern Ukraine remained significantly below pre-COVID-19 levels: around 55,000 individual crossings compared with 600,000 in March 2020 and 1.2 million in March 2019. [1]

The lowest level of crossings was observed in April and May 2020, when only several hundred people were able to cross the “contact line” due to stricter movement restrictions in place. Following the partial reopening of two EECPs in June 2020 – “Stanytsia Luhanska” in Luhanska oblast and “Novotroitske” in Donetska oblast – the level of monthly crossings started to grow and reached over 80,000 in August and September 2020.

In October 2020, the EECP “Stanytsia Luhanska” was closed twice: first due to wildfire damage it sustained and then due to the deterioration of the epidemiological situation. Its closure resulted in a drastic drop in the number of crossings in October: some 21,000 compared with almost 86,000 in September. The limitation of allowed frequency of crossings to once per month in Luhanska oblast (NGCA) in September 2020 has led to an overall decrease in monthly crossings between November 2020 and March 2021, averaging 40,000 per month.

Overall, the movement restrictions are less severe in Luhanska oblast (NGCA) when compared with Donetska oblast (NGCA). In Donetska oblast (NGCA), only people included in pre-approved lists could leave and/or come back, while in Luhanska oblast (NGCA) anyone with residency in NGCA of Luhanska oblast could enter/exit once per month. People can also reach the other side if their reason for crossing falls under humanitarian exemptions negotiated by the UN and its humanitarian partners shortly after the partial closure of the “contact line”. The list includes the death of a close relative, the need for urgent medical intervention and the necessity to respect the principle of family unity, among others.

The varying severity of restrictions in the two NGCAs has resulted in a shift of the individual crossings’ distribution between the two oblasts. The pedestrian-only EECP “Stanytsia Luhanska” in Luhanska oblast has been responsible for 95 per cent of all crossings of the “contact line” following its partial closure, while Donetska oblast had been responsible for over 70 per cent of all crossings before the start of the pandemic.

Reasons for and frequency of crossing the “contact line”

Before the introduction of COVID-19-related restrictions, hundreds of thousands of residents of eastern Ukraine who had been “split” by the “contact line” had crossed to visit relatives, access health-care services, resolve issues with documentation, pensions and social payments, withdraw cash and check on their property.

The almost complete closure of the “contact line” in March last year has disproportionately affected the people residing in NGCA – 90 per cent of all people crossing before the introduction of movement restrictions – who are more reliant on accessing services and social entitlements provided in Government-controlled areas (GCA). Prior to COVID-19, there was large-scale and regular crossing of the “contact line” by about 20 per cent of the NGCA population.

During the year before the closure, the majority of people crossing from NGCA crossed every two months (around 70 per cent) or monthly (some 15 per cent) to resolve issues related to pensions and social payments (around 70 per cent), withdraw cash (some 35 per cent) followed by visiting relatives and obtaining documentation. [2]

During the year following the introduction of severe movement restrictions, the frequency of crossings from NGCA dropped along with the level of individual crossings: of the small number of people crossing, less than 40 per cent of people crossed every two months and less than 10 per cent monthly. [3] NGCA residents also crossed more often to visit relatives (some 60 per cent) and less frequently to withdraw cash (below 40 per cent) and resolve issues related to pensions and social payments (less than 30 per cent). [4]

The shift in the reasons for crossing is largely connected with the overall decrease in the number of crossings and the limited ability of NGCA pensioners to cross to collect and recover their social entitlements: prior to COVID-19, over 65 per cent of those crossing were elderly NGCA residents.

During the year of closure, GCA residents travelled to NGCA less frequently too, with the plurality of people (more than 25 per cent) indicating that they travelled once in two years, followed by 10 per cent indicating four times a year and 10 per cent every other month. By contrast, during the year before the closure, over 30 per cent travelled every month followed by 20 per cent quarterly and 15 per cent bimonthly.

Prior to the “contact line” closure, the majority of GCA residents (70 per cent) crossed to visit relatives, which remained similar during the year of closure. The second most common reason for GCA residents to travel before the closure was to check on their property (34 per cent). This reason has been less common following the start of the pandemic: only 16 per cent of people who have been able to cross.

Self-quarantine and testing for COVID-19

Since the partial reopening of the two EECPs in June 2020, entering GCA from NGCA has been subject to a 14-day-self-quarantine, which is monitored through a smartphone app called “Dii Vdoma” [Act at Home]. [5] Almost 60 per cent of all people crossing into GCA reported difficulties with installing and using the app. This requirement has been particularly challenging for the elderly, many of whom don’t own a smartphone or lack the knowledge on how to use one.

People crossing into GCA who don’t have a smartphone or are unable to download the “Dii Vdoma” are required to quarantine in a designated facility for 14 days or until they receive a negative polymerase chain reaction (PCR) COVID-19 test result. However, until January 2021, the PCR tests for COVID-19 were only available at cost, and therefore were too expensive for the majority of vulnerable people. Moreover, the observation option hasn’t always been available to people due to lack of beds in designated medical facilities.

Currently, the self-quarantine may be terminated earlier subject to a negative result of a PCR test and, from 5 January 2021, a COVID-19 antigen test. In January, the Government of Ukraine made free-of-charge express antigen body tests available at the EECP “Novotroitske” and since March at the EECP “Stanytsia Luhanska”. There have been reports that at “Stanytsia Luhanska”, the testing capacity is insufficient to meet demand: tests are available only for around 10 per cent of the average of 1,000 people who are crossing per day.

There have also been reports about the lack of information on free testing and testing facility’s opening hours. Moreover, there are reports of people trying to take advantage of the current crossing situation by joining the COVID-19 testing queue to sell their place in line to those who actually need it. Others offer their help with installing the “Diia” app to vulnerable people in exchange for money.

Upon entering Luhanska oblast (NGCA) from GCA, a two-week self-quarantine at a place of residence remains mandatory. In Donetska oblast (NGCA), people entering from GCA must undergo a two-week observation in a designated facility unless they pay for an express test which, if negative, allows them to self-isolate at their place of residence.

Impact of movement restrictions on civilians

The year-long COVID-19-related restrictions have left hundreds of thousands of people without access to social benefits, basic services, and separated them from their families and friends, with NGCA residents affected most. It is estimated that at least 360,000 NGCA pensioners who regularly crossed to GCA to collect their pensions have been unable to do so over this past year. Since March 2020, over UAH11 billion (US$396 million) has accumulated in pension accounts. [6] Due to movement restrictions, NGCA pensioners have been forced to find alternative ways to survive, including relying more on NGCA social payments, depleting their savings, borrowing money or accessing their pensions through costly and legally challenging routes.

Even though two service centres, providing a range of administrative, banking, legal and other services, have been opened in GCA near two EECPs, very few people benefit from them as the possibility to cross the “contact line” remains very limited. COVID-19 restrictions have increased the isolation of NGCA residents from the rest of Ukraine and have had a negative impact on people’s mental health. Unable to visit their families and close ones for over a year, without any definite prospects of improvement, people report feeling trapped.

Essentially, for people whose reasons to cross don’t fall under the “humanitarian exemptions” or who can’t confirm the permanent place of residence in GCA/NGCA, respectively, the only option is to transit through the Russian Federation. This travel, however, is much more costly, exhausting and legally challenging option, and is not viable for most elderly and vulnerable people. Furthermore, even though the Russian Federation (which keeps its borders closed for most foreigners) still permits residents of NGCA of Luhanska and Donetska oblasts to enter and transit to NGCA/GCA, there have been reports of the introduction of new limitations, making this route less accessible. For instance, people with Ukrainian biometric passports are allegedly no longer allowed to enter the Russian Federation, while it is still allowed for Ukrainians with older Ukrainian passports containing a stamp confirming their permanent residence in one of NGCAs.

Movement restrictions in 2021

Severe restrictions of movement are expected to further exacerbate people’s vulnerabilities, hitting NGCA residents even harder, and deepen the rift between the once united community. It is anticipated that the “contact line” will remain substantially closed at least until summer 2021. Chances are that the “contact line” won’t reopen until the end of the year.

The recent increase in the level of hostilities also increases fear that the conflict might reignite, causing additional hardship for the already conflict-exhausted people. In these circumstances, people’s access to humanitarian assistance and the humanitarian community’s ability to reach people in need wherever they reside remains critical until a peaceful solution to the armed conflict is found.

Timeline of COVID-19-related movement restrictions

21 March 2020: The Government of Ukraine imposes temporary limitations on crossing the “contact line”, allowing only people with a permanent place of residence in GCA to enter. The entities in control of NGCA of Luhanska and Donetska oblasts, in their turn, suspend all civilian movement across the “contact line”.

March - April 2020: Both sides introduce “humanitarian exemptions” for crossing the “contact line”, which include (i) the death or severe disease of a close relative, (ii) severe or chronic illness that requires urgent medical intervention, (iii) the need to respect the principle of family unity, etc. [7] People who were able to cross the “contact line” on the above grounds were required to self-quarantine for 14 days. Even though the NGCAs mirrored the approach, only several hundred people were able to cross the “contact line” in April and May 2020.

10 June 2020: Two crossing points reopen from the GCA side: “Stanytsia Luhanska” in Luhanska oblast and “Novotroitske” in Donetska oblast (both operate daily).

12 June 2020: The EECP “Stanytsia Luhanska” reopens from the NGCA side in Luhanska oblast (operates daily).

22-25 June 2020: The EECP “Novotroitske”/“Olenivka” reopens from the NGCA side in Donetska oblast (open only on Mondays and Fridays).

25 September 2020: Luhanska oblast (NGCA) limits the individual crossings to once per month for people with permanent residency in NGCA of Luhanska oblast.

15 October - 10 November 2020: The EECP “Stanytsia Luhanska” is temporarily closed from the GCA side due to a deterioration of the epidemiological situation.

10 November 2020: Two new EECPs in Luhanska oblast – “Shchastia” and “Zolote” – open from the GCA side, while all earlier operational EECPs (five) also reopen from the GCA side. Due to ongoing concerns about the epidemiological situation on the NGCA side and deadlock in political negotiations, only two EECPs operate on a limited basis from both sides: “Stanytsia Luhanska” in Luhanska oblast and “Novotroitske” in Donetska oblast.

5 January 2021: The Government includes an antigen test to the list of tests that allow early termination of mandatory self-quarantine for those arriving from NGCA. Free of charge COVID-19 tests are made available at EECPs from the GCA side for Ukrainian citizens.

1 March 2021: The first-ever UN-organized convoy passes through the new EECP in Luhanska oblast, “Shchastia”, which remains closed for civilian crossing to date.

22 March 2021: The Government decides to exclude people who travel from NGCA to get vaccinated in GCA from mandatory two-week self-quarantine.

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[1] According to the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine

[2] UNHCR Ukraine and Right to Protection, eastern Ukraine checkpoint monitoring (2020) and eastern Ukraine checkpoint monitoring (2019)

[3] UNHCR Ukraine and Right to Protection, eastern Ukraine checkpoint monitoring (October-December 2020) and eastern Ukraine checkpoint monitoring (January-March 2021)

[4] UNHCR Ukraine and Right to Protection, eastern Ukraine checkpoint monitoring (2021)

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ukraine Ombudsperson, facebook.com/denisovaombudsman/posts/5364601880279184

[7] The list of exemptions negotiated by the humanitarian community includes the necessity to respect the principle of family unity, death, or severe disease of a close relative as well as severe or chronic illness, which requires urgent medical intervention.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Analysis
Zhovanka village, Donetska oblast, GCA, Ukraine
Ivan, 66 years old, shows the heavily damaged house he had built for his children. Photo: OCHA/Yevhen Maloletka

Civilians and critical infrastructure continue to come under attack in eastern Ukraine

While last year saw the lowest level of civilian casualties and attacks on civilian infrastructure for the entire conflict period, the recent return to active fighting might signify that the positive trend observed following the July 2020 ceasefire might reverse course soon. While the humanitarian community continues to monitor the situation closely and prepare for potential escalation, the analysis below gives an overview of how the longest-lived ceasefire to date has improved the security situation in eastern Ukraine in 2020.

Attacks on people

Last year saw the lowest level of civilian casualties since the beginning of the conflict and an 11 per cent decrease compared with 2019 [1]: 149 civilians killed and injured. Almost three-fourth of all civilian casualties (107) were recorded from 1 January to 31 July 2020 [2] – before the entry into force of the comprehensive ceasefire brokered by the Trilateral Contact Group on 27 July.

The July ceasefire has positively reflected on the security situation in eastern Ukraine for the remainder of 2020 and resulted in a dramatic drop in civilian casualties caused by active fighting and attacks on civilian infrastructure. From 1 August 2020 until 1 February 2021, only three civilians were injured due to active hostilities compared with 67 civilian casualties during the previous six months before the July ceasefire.

Despite a decrease in the total number of casualties on a year-over-year basis, the number of people killed by the conflict-related hostilities remained almost at the same level: 26 civilians were killed in 2020 compared with 27 a year earlier; one-third of them (eight) — after 31 July 2020. Shelling, small arms and light weapons (SALW) fire remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, injuring 61 and killing seven people. At the same time, the number of people who received injuries due to shelling and SALW reduced by 37 per cent compared with 97 people injured in 2019.

Moreover, the number of victims of mines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) increased, accounting for 51 per cent of all casualties: in 2020, 59 people were injured and 17 killed in mine-related incidents and due to ERW handling compared with 42 injured and 17 killed in 2019. The increase in mine-related civilian casualties, coupled with reports of planting of new mines, is particularly worrying as already around 2 million people are exposed to the threat of landmines and ERW in eastern Ukraine.

Attacks on civilian infrastructure

Another positive ceasefire-related development is the decrease in the number of attacks on civilian infrastructure. From 1 February to 31 July 2020, 72 security incidents, 40 of which resulted in some damage, were recorded, compared with four incidents between 1 August 2020 to 31 January 2021, none of which caused damage.

In 2020, 61 incidents affected water supply and wastewater infrastructure [3] on both sides of the “contact line”, which is a 30 per cent decrease compared with 2019. From January to June 2020, 48 incidents were reported, which is slightly lower than during the same period of 2019 (58 incidents). In line with the overall improvement of the security situation following the ceasefire, 13 incidents were recorded during the second half of the year, only four of which took place after 31 July 2020.

While the overall decrease in the number of security incidents affecting water facilities is a positive development, the number of full days of water supply disruption per person in 2020 was the highest since 2017 (15 million): 9 million per-person days of water supply interruption compared with 6.9 million in 2019.

Looking forward

The July 2020 ceasefire has brought a long-awaited breathing space to conflict-affected people in eastern Ukraine. The growing number of ceasefire violations in the first three months of 2021 raises concerns over the possible return to the pre-ceasefire level of hostilities or, in the worst case, potential escalation. Any deterioration of security conditions in the east will severely aggravate the humanitarian situation for 3.4 million in need of assistance, whose resilience is already strained by seven years of armed conflict and the COVID-19 pandemic.

It is evident that humanitarian assistance alone can’t help eastern Ukraine recover. The de-escalation and adherence to a comprehensive ceasefire are essential to bringing back hope to people that a political solution can be reached. However, while the armed conflict continues, the relief provided by humanitarian actors remains essential for supporting people in urgent need.

You can also support the humanitarian response in Ukraine. Click here to donate now.

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[1] OHCHR, Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, 1 August 2020 – 31 January 2021.

[2] OHCHR, Report on the human rights situation in Ukraine, 16 February – 31 July 2020.

[3] WASH Cluster Alert Bulletin, 1 January – 31 December 2020, Issue 15.

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Trends

COVID-19 pandemic in eastern Ukraine: a year in review

The first confirmed case of COVID-19 in Ukraine was identified on 29 February 2020, signifying the start of the pandemic in the country. The pandemic reached the Government-controlled areas (GCA) of conflict-torn eastern Ukraine on 18 March, when the first case was registered in Donetska oblast. On 29 March, the first COVID-19 case was reported in the non-Government-controlled areas (NGCA) of Donetska oblast. Luhanska oblast (NGCA) followed shortly after, with the first case reported to have been registered on 31 March.

Starting from May 2020, the COVID-19 incidence rate almost doubled every month, reaching 1 million cases by the end of the year. Despite a decline between January and February 2021, the COVID-19 pandemic downward trend in Ukraine reversed at the end of February, returning to the higher COVID-19 incidence rate of late December 2020. In NGCA, according to open sources, the COVID-19 growth rate is between 2 and 5 per cent per week or 8 to 20 per cent per month, which is similar to eastern Ukraine (GCA). At the same time, the fatality rates in NGCA are higher than in GCA: 8-9 per cent compared with some 2 per cent in GCA. Unfortunately, the lack of consistently reliable NGCA data makes it harder to understand the development and scale of the impact of COVID-19.

One year after the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Government of Ukraine started a countrywide vaccination campaign with the Covishield vaccine (AstraZeneca’s vaccine produced in India) on 24 February 2021. As of 19 March, 92,713 people have received the first dose, with Donetska oblast (GCA) having the highest vaccination rate (5,044). In addition to the purchase of 21 to 25 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines announced by the Government of Ukraine, some 8 million doses will be donated through the COVAX facility supported by the United Nations. According to the Ministry of Health’s schedule, some 12.7 million of the most vulnerable prioritized for vaccination – 30 per cent of the total population of Ukraine – are expected to be vaccinated, including with COVAX vaccines, by December 2021. In NGCA, the vaccination campaign is reported to have started on 1 February 2021 with the Sputnik V vaccine. Since there is no consistent and reliable data on the NGCA’s vaccination rate, the pace of the vaccination campaign remains unknown.

Below is a COVID-19 timeline, which summarizes the pandemic’s leading events and developments in Ukraine.

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Situation Report
Visual

COVID-19 timeline in Ukraine

COVID-19 timeline

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Situation Report
Visual

Humanitarian Snapshot (April 2021)

Humanitarian Snapshot (April 2021)

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Visual

Crossing Points Snapshot (April 2021)

Crossing Points Snapshot (April 2021)

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Ukraine

Situation Report
Background
A map of eastern Ukraine divided by the 427-kilometre-long “contact line”.
A map of eastern Ukraine divided by the 427-kilometre-long “contact line”.

Humanitarian Context

Now in its seventh year, the conflict in eastern Ukraine continues to significantly impact the lives of millions of people living in the region, 3.4 million of whom require humanitarian assistance and protection services in 2021. Although the July 2020 ceasefire has brought marked reductions of hostilities and civilian casualties as well as the longest breathing space since the beginning of the conflict, the end is not yet in sight. As the humanitarian crisis aggravated by COVID-19 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 kilometre-long “contact line” – equivalent to the length of the French-German border.

The shock of COVID-19 has created additional pressure on the struggling population. The pandemic and its ramifications have sent the weakened healthcare system, the floundering provision of social services and the declining regional economy to a breaking point. During the first months of the pandemic, all crossing points along the “contact line” were closed in an attempt to contain the virus, which seriously restricted people’s freedom of movement. This made it almost impossible for the population in need, particularly the elderly living in areas beyond Government control (NGCA), to obtain their main sources of income such as pensions and social benefits, or to maintain family ties. Such exclusion has not only increased people’s vulnerabilities but also added to their mental and psychological stress. Although two of the five crossing points partially reopened in June 2020, crossing procedures and restrictions remain complicated. Following the introduction of movement restrictions due to COVID-19 in late March 2020, the number of monthly crossings has been less than 10 per cent of the 1.2 million monthly crossings in 2019. Meanwhile, the volume of humanitarian aid delivered on UN-organised convoys to NGCA between March and December 2020 dropped by 16 per cent compared to the same period during 2019, with COVID-19 relief items constituting a large portion of the delivered assistance. Overall, the pandemic has made hundreds of thousands of conflict-weary people more vulnerable and more dependent on humanitarian aid.

Severe restrictions of movement have and will further increase the affected population’s vulnerabilities hitting NGCA residents particularly hard. It is to be expected that the “contact line” will remain substantially closed until summer 2021. At the same time, the opening of the two new crossing points in Luhanska oblast has been indefinitely delayed due to disagreements on the mode of operation. On a positive note, gradual progress on new organizations gaining access to operate in NGCA appears likely, especially to support the COVID-19 response.

With COVID-19 continuing to have a firm grip on the entire country, economic recovery in eastern Ukraine seems unlikely in 2021. Communities are expected to remain dependent on support to help them regain their self-sufficiency and recover from the effects of the prolonged crisis as well as the pandemic. Despite an increase in the Government’s engagement in humanitarian response in Government-controlled areas (GCA), national emergency response and preparedness capacities are likely to be overwhelmed by increasing and more severe needs. The restrictions on movement across the “contact line” will contribute to increased vulnerability, while the situation in NGCA is projected to be acute due to the limited capacity of hospitals and laboratories.

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