Portraits from Ukraine’s conflict line, where humanitarian assistance is most needed

Volodymyr Shuvayev

Funding for the humanitarian response in 2018 will determine how many people affected by the Ukrainian conflict receive assistance

As Ukrainian armed conflict enters its fourth year, 3.4 million people in the eastern part of the country are in need of humanitarian support. Among them, the 200 000 residents living within 5 kilometres of the 457-kilometre contact line are most in need. Their lives are more heavily affected by continued shelling, limited freedom of movement, and scarcity of food, fuel and medicines, as well as by increased health risks and lack of access to health services.

The harshness of winter complicates their struggles. The contact line, which separates government-controlled areas from non-government controlled areas, has also become one of the most landmine-contaminated areas in the world. The photos below portray the stories of some of the people living in this area, and the difficulties they face daily.

A forgotten crisis

The humanitarian response to the Ukrainian crisis remains severely underfunded. In 2017, WHO received only two thirds of the amount needed for its humanitarian activities in the country.

“Available funding allowed WHO and partners to address critical needs. We delivered essential medicines and life-saving equipment, provided medical care through mobile units, built capacity and strengthened the health system,” says Dorit Nitzan, Health Emergencies Coordinator at WHO/Europe.

“However,” she continues, “this budget did not allow WHO to provide full-scale support on infectious and noncommunicable diseases, leaving millions of children at risk and thousands of patients untreated. This is why WHO and United Nations agencies call on donors to scale up support to health and humanitarian assistance for millions of people affected by the Ukraine conflict.”

At the end of 2017, United Nations agencies, including WHO, and international partners launched the campaign #UkraineNotForgotten to plead for support for humanitarian assistance. In total, US$ 159 million are required; of this, US$ 21.1 million are needed to address the health and nutrition needs of just under half of the 2.2 million people in need. Interventions are detailed in the United Nations plan for humanitarian response in 2018.