Since the early morning of 24 February 2022, thousands have lost their lives and more than a third of Ukraine’s population of 44 million are believed to be uprooted and displaced – within the country and across borders – with displacement continuing and no prospects of improvement in sight.
“We are witnessing a tragedy unfolding in the heart of Europe and a complex humanitarian crisis that require urgent and continued commitment to help the people of Ukraine”, said DRC Secretary General Charlotte Slente, returning from her second visit to the region affected by war in Ukraine.
Despite generous reception and hosting arrangements within Ukraine, its neighbouring countries, and the wider Europe, many are without adequate safety and shelter. The cost-of-living is rising, people run out of their savings, and interim housing options including schools and dormitories are no longer available, longer-term large numbers of Ukrainians are again displaced and desperately looking for housing.
Needs for longer term solutions to shelter and continued protection of vulnerable individuals are growing concerns not least as it is pushing many to return to unsafe regions of Ukraine. Their probability of facing further displacement increases as they attempt to go home to areas where active fighting and large-scale contamination of remnants of war, place them at even greater risk.
“Access to sufficient and adequate shelter - short and longer-term – is a growing challenge, and timely action to address this is crucial, not least with winter approaching. We know that harsh temperatures and poor shelter conditions will exacerbate the humanitarian crisis. This applies to the millions displaced within western and central areas of Ukraine, and not least to the many in eastern Ukraine still trapped in hard-hit and hard-to-reach areas in damaged homes, often cut off from critical infrastructure and sufficient food, water, heating, and electricity”, said Charlotte Slente.
In oblasts such as Luhansk and Donetsk in eastern Ukraine, where DRC has carried out humanitarian mine action since 2014, cities such as Mariupol and Severodonetsk are left in ruins. DRC’s staff who was living and working in conflict-affected areas of east Ukraine prior to 24 February, are now among the internally displaced, but working from newly established bases and locations where emergency responses coordinated and implemented by DRC have been scaled up.
“We are grateful for all support that has enabled our response to the urgent needs among a growing number of vulnerable individuals. We have reached hundreds of thousands of people affected by the Ukraine war over the past six months and continue to work to provide more of these critical services”, said Charlotte Slente; “Unfortunately, many more are in need of aid, and we therefore urge all stakeholders and actors to continue their commitment to secure assistance that can allow for strengthening the resilience among millions of exhausted and suffering people of Ukraine".
The levels of destruction are in many places of a scale that will require extensive reconstruction and, prior to that, investment in clearance of areas contaminated by explosive ordnance. The State Emergency Services of Ukraine, a partner as well to DRC, estimates that 10 oblasts and areas exceeding 200,000 square kilometres – equal to one third of the country or nearly five times the size of Denmark – are contaminated by explosive ordnance and require clearance to be released for safe usage.
“An immediate priority for humanitarian mine action must be to prevent casualties caused by unexploded ordnance, and to protect lives of civilians in residential areas and locations, as well as routes used by civilians fleeing to safer areas”, said Charlotte Slente.
DRC continues to advocate for protection of civilians and unimpeded access to people in need, and to scale up efforts to deliver aid to Ukrainian people in need and the communities hosting them. This will continue, through ensuring access to protection, economic recovery and humanitarian mine action services across the areas affected by the war in Ukraine.
For every new day of conflict in Ukraine, the country is littered with lethal traces of unexploded ordnance.
On 24 August 2022, Ukraine marks a tragic milestone with active fighting in the country continuing to cause large-scale displacement and a humanitarian crisis in the heart of Europe and as needs for urgent help is growing by the day.