Situation Report
A boy waits in a car while his father purchases hygiene products with a voucher he received from a humanitarian organization.
A boy waits in a car while his father purchases hygiene products with a voucher he received from a humanitarian organization. Photo: TGH/Oleksiі Filippov

COVID-19 and the Planned Humanitarian Response in 2021

On November 26, the humanitarian community in Ukraine launched the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan in a bid to meet the needs of 1.9 million conflict-affected people in eastern Ukraine. The Plan seeks US$168 million to provide humanitarian aid and protection to those most vulnerable in 2021.

COVID-19 aggravates the already protracted armed conflict

Almost seven years of active fighting have had profound consequences on the lives of more than five million people in the conflict-affected Donetska and Luhanska oblasts of eastern Ukraine. Although the July 2020 ceasefire has resulted in a noticeable decrease in hostilities and civilian casualties, there is no end in sight. With ongoing hostilities and the COVID-19 pandemic exacerbating the already dire humanitarian situation in eastern Ukraine, 3.4 million people are projected to be in need of humanitarian assistance in 2021. Since 2017, the number of people in need of humanitarian assistance has remained at about the same level. However, in 2020, their needs have become more severe due to COVID-19.

The pandemic has put further stresses on an already weakened healthcare system, insufficient social services provision and the declining regional economy. All crossing points in eastern Ukraine were also closed to contain the spread of the virus from March to June 2020 and remain only partially operational to date. This has seriously restricted people’s freedom of movement and made it almost impossible for the population in need, particularly the elderly living in non-Government-controlled areas (NGCA), to access their entitlements or maintain family ties. It is expected that the situation is going to be similar in 2021, and the ‘contact line’ will remain substantially closed until at least summer 2021.

Humanitarian Response in 2021

The 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan – a strictly prioritized and comprehensive plan of action – lays out how humanitarian partners aim to provide humanitarian aid and protection services to 1.9 million of the most vulnerable people in the conflict-affected areas of eastern Ukraine. Almost 800,000 of the people targeted live in NGCA, while 1.1 million are targeted in Government-controlled areas (GCA), including 189,000 internally displaced people in the GCA of Donetska, Luhanska and other oblasts. Among the most vulnerable are the elderly, who represent 40 per cent of the people targeted with assistance, as well as children from vulnerable families – 15 per cent of those targeted. The response efforts also aim to meet the critical needs of 240,000 people with disabilities.

The humanitarian community in Ukraine will continue to focus on saving lives, ensuring people’s access to basic services and strengthening the protection of those affected by the conflict and COVID-19. Recognizing the strong capacity of the Government of Ukraine at all levels, humanitarian actors will also continue to gradually transfer service delivery to national actors to ensure the sustainability of services that address humanitarian needs in conflict-affected areas. The Plan encompasses different sectors, including education, food security, health, protection, shelter, and water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH). Considering the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, next year’s response will put an even bigger focus on health and WASH interventions.

Support the Humanitarian Response

At the end of November, the Humanitarian Coordinator in Ukraine, Ms. Osnat Lubrani, appealed to donors to support the 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan. In her appeal, she noted that the Plan would complement the Government's efforts, prioritizing the most critical humanitarian requirements for meeting the basic needs and preventing further deterioration of the situation. “The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the tables for many, especially for those already made vulnerable by the conflict who can barely make ends meet. And it is not abating any time soon — even with vaccines on the horizon,” Ms. Lubrani said. “It is a matter of basic human solidarity, and it is our obligation to come to the aid of those who need assistance. We encourage everyone to join us. Only with your support can we make sure that everyone is safe and no one is left behind,” Ms. Lubrani concluded.

You can also support the response by donating here: