The United Nations is appealing for $162 million to provide protection and life-saving assistance to 2.3 million of the most vulnerable people in eastern Ukraine, which is in its fifth year of civil war.
The United Nations reports more than 3,300 people have been killed and up to 9,000 injured since 2014 when civil war broke out in eastern Ukraine between Russian-backed separatists and the government.
The conflict remains active and potentially deadly for millions of civilians who are liable to be hit by daily shelling and sniper fire. Nearly 2 million of the 2.3 million people the U.N. plans to assist this year are located on both sides of the contact line. This is the 500-kilometer line of separation between Ukrainian Government and rebel forces.
Spokesman for the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, Jens Laerke, tells VOA the increasingly protracted nature of the conflict is having a particularly severe impact on the elderly. He says they comprise one-third of people in need, the highest proportion of elderly affected in the world.
“That is a special problem not least because they have limited mobility. They cannot go and collect their pensions," said Laerke. "They cannot go to health centers. They cannot get out of their homes and houses. So, they are suffering alone in their homes. These days it is extremely cold. They may not have fuel. They do not have access to the food that they need. They do not have access to the medicine that they may require.”
Laerke says this grim picture is magnified by the risks people encounter along the contact line. He says large stretches of populated areas in the buffer zone dividing the warring factions are littered with landmines and explosive remnants of war. The United Nations reports these weapons caused 270 deaths and injuries last year.
Money from the appeal will provide food, shelter and household items, access to clean water, education and health. It also will support winterization activities, such as supplying people with warm blankets, kerosene for heating and other relief needed to help them survive the harsh winter.