A lower-middle-income country, ranked 81 of 188 countries in the 2016 Human Development Index, Ukraine is facing its most serious challenges since it achieved independence in 1991. Civil unrest began in late 2013, when a turnaround in the national political line led to the massive civil ‘Euromaidan’ protests, the dismissal of the former President and, eventually, early parliamentary and presidential elections. In April 2014, historical tensions between the west and east of the country escalated and erupted into a full-scale military conflict with non-state armed groups seizing power in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions (called the ‘Donbas’) of eastern Ukraine.
The ceasefire agreement in place between the belligerent parties is shaky and does not hold. Exchange of fire andshelling continue unabated on a daily basis in densely populated areas along the contact line between government and non-government controlled areas. In total, 4.4 million people have been affected by the conflict, with 3.8 million in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights estimates that, as of August 2017, over 2,500 civilians have been killed since the beginning of the conflict, and another 7,000-9,000 have been injured. Damage to critical civilian infrastructure – including water, heating and electricity supply facilities – is having a severe impact on the lives of millions on both sides of the contact line, especially in the harsh winter months.
The protracted crisis is causing large-scale displacement of people. Millions of internally displaced persons do not have access to their social benefits – including pensions – due to bureaucratic impediments. More than 7,000 km2 of land close to the contact line is contaminated with landmines and other explosive remnants of war which endanger lives and deny farmers access to land.
While access to food never used to be a problem before the conflict, the economic crisis, coupled with one of the highest food inflation rates in the world, significantly weakened the ability of families to cope in the face of increasing unemployment and lack of income. An economic blockade introduced by the government and continuous fighting are isolating the civilian population in the violence-wracked east of the country, cutting offaccess to food markets, medical care, education and other vital social services. According to the most recent assessments, the number of food insecure people in 2017 significantly increased both in non-government controlled areas – 800,000 people, of whom 150,000 are severely insecure – and in government-controlled territories, where 410,000 people are food insecure.
Since launching its operations in Ukraine in August 2014, the World Food Programme (WFP) has provided food assistance to almost 1 million people. WFP’s work targets the most vulnerable and food insecure people in conflict-affected regions, with a special focus on elderly people, women-headed households with more than two children, chronically ill people (people living with tuberculosis, HIV or cancer), people with disabilities and unaccompanied minors.
What the World Food Programme is doing in Ukraine
Food assistanceWFP provides food rations in conflict-affected areas where humanitarian organizations have limited access, and infrastructure and markets are disrupted. The WFP food basket includes buckwheat, macaroni, sunflower oil, sugar, salt, rice, wheat flour and peas, equivalent to 1,600 kcal per person. Since November 2014, around 1 million people have received WFP food rations.
Cash transfersIn government-controlled areas and where local markets are functioning, WFP provides internally displaced persons with cash that can be spent on a specific list of food items. This helps people to meet their food needs and injects money into local economies. To date, WFP has supported around 260,000 people with cash.
Resilience buildingIn 2017, WFP launched small-scale early recovery activities to support the livelihood and improve the resilience of people in need. Food For Assets / Training programmes – tailored to the local context – are aimed at increasing income and rehabilitating productive assets. WFP plans to involve 150,000 people identified as moderately food insecure in these programmes.
Food security and livelihood clusterWFP co-leads the Food Security and Livelihood Cluster that was established to coordinate the assistance provided by the humanitarian community to those affected by the crisis.
Logistics supportWFP also leads logistics activities in Ukraine, assisting all humanitarian agencies and cooperating partners with coordination and information management. WFP’s work focuses on identifying logistics bottlenecks and providing a forum for humanitarian actors to address existing challenges. WFP facilitates the humanitarian convoys that deliver assistance in non-government controlled territories.