In the past week, an already volatile situation in Ukraine escalated as heavy artillery and rocket fire hit residential areas in the eastern part of the country, ending a fragile ceasefire.  The fighting has put already vulnerable civilians at heightened risk, with the Red Cross warning of a deteriorating humanitarian situation.

Civil unrest began in 2013Since 2013, unrest and conflict have been a reality for those living in Ukraine.  Based on a report by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), almost 10,000 people have allegedly been killed, and over 22,000 people have been injured due to civil unrest and the armed conflict which followed. An estimated 1.7 million people have been forced to flee the country as a result of the unrest and conflict. According to OCHA, 70% of those impacted are from already vulnerable groups, including the elderly, women and children.  The destruction of civilian property, such as residential areas, is increasing the suffering of civilians. Many are without electricity, heat or water, with extreme winter temperatures.

Alain Aeschliman, head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) says, “We are very concerned at the impact on civilians triggered by the escalation in this fighting.” Alain also says that at this time, a major priority is restoring power and running water in impacted areas.

A Red Cross response, which includes members of the Ukrainian Red Cross, ICRC, International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent, and partner National Societies, have been providing support to a growing amount of impacted people, from 5,000 assisted in 2014, to 107,750 in 2015. The Ukrainian Red Cross has been responding to the situation using all its available resources and means. An assessment conducted in September 2016 determined support for over 195,000 people is required. The assessment also noted that while civilians in Ukraine are at high risk, they are facing difficulties attracting attention to this humanitarian crisis.

Alain reminds us that the conflict, “is about much more than politics and numbers. It is affecting densely populated areas, where many people live. It has a human face, and despite the impressive resilience demonstrated by the population here, this conflict is destroying people’s lives.”

 

Red Cross is providing healthcare, psychosocial support, emergency first aid, as well as essential items like food, safe drinking water, fuel for generators, hygiene items, and household items. As of October 2016, over 105,000 people had been reached with medical or social care. Keeping with the fundamental principles, the Red Cross is working neutrally and impartially in impacted areas to help the most vulnerable, as well as urging those fighting to respect International Humanitarian Law which protects civilians.

The ICRC is among a number of organizations asking for a reinforced  ceasefire so that repair teams are able to fix damaged civilian infrastructure.  

Canadians can help by donating to the International Disaster Relief Fund