Ukraine: UN reports uptick in internal displacement as country’s conflict grinds on

In Ukraine, residents of conflict-affected Stakhanov, Luhansk oblast, collect drinking water. Photo: UNICEF Ukraine

9 June 2015 – The number of internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Ukraine has soared to over one million due to the ongoing conflict in the country’s eastern regions, the United Nations humanitarian office reported today.

Addressing a press briefing held earlier this morning in Geneva, Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), told reporters that during the 15-month span between April 2014 and June 2015, the Ukraine crisis triggered the internal displacement of more than 1.3 million people, mostly across the country’s eastern provinces of Dinetsk, Luhansk, and Kharkivska. This, he added, placed the Eastern European country among the top 10 countries in the world for internal displacement.

In addition to the growing numbers of displaced, on-the-ground casualties are also increasing, warned Mr. Laerke. According to OCHA’s conservative estimates, at least 6,454 people, both military and civilians, have been killed, and another 16,146 have been wounded since the outbreak of hostilities.

In late February 2014, the situation in Ukraine transcended what was initially seen as an internal Ukrainian political crisis into violent clashes in parts of the country, later reaching full-scale conflict in the east. Nevertheless, despite a September 2014 cease-fire agreed in Minsk, the fighting has since continuously deteriorated, with serious consequences for the country's unity, territorial integrity and stability. In February 2015, the parties in Ukraine and the Trilateral Contact Group signed a “Package of Measures for the Implementation of the Minsk Agreements.”

One particular recent bout of fighting in the town of Marinka had led to a critical deterioration in humanitarian needs and a lack of access to water, the OCHA spokesperson continued. He said an estimated 10,000 people remaining in the Marinka area had no access to water for the past days and were being reached by insufficient supplies. Meanwhile, in the non-Government controlled areas of Luhansk province, thousands of people were reportedly without any access to water at all.

Overall, Mr. Laerke concluded, an estimated 5 million people across Ukraine remained in need of humanitarian aid. Although the UN-backed humanitarian response plan is targeting 3.2 million of those in need, he cautioned that the plan is currently experiencing a shortfall in funding with only 24 per cent of it covered.

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