Ukraine: Three Decisions For Humanity
Dear Messrs. Presidents Putin and Trump,
As all eyes are now turned on the outcome of your meeting on the 16th of July in Helsinki, we, as humanitarian organisations working in eastern Ukraine, would like to draw your attention to the humanitarian crisis there and call on you to use your influence on all parties to the conflict to alleviate human suffering.
Four years of conflict have taken over 2,000 civilian lives and a heavy toll on people’s ability to cope with a worsening socio-economic situation. 3.4 million people are still in need of humanitarian assistance in eastern Ukraine.
Below are three key messages that can further inform your position on Ukraine’s crisis. Your influence on decisions related to those points would bring about positive change for the conflict-affected population:
1. Civilians and civilian infrastructure are #NotATarget
In the situation of an armed conflict, civilians and civilian objects, including critical civilian infrastructure, shall not be the object of an attack. International humanitarian law also obliges parties to the conflict to take all feasible precautionary measures to avoid, and in any event to minimise, incidental loss of civilian life, injury to civilians and damage to civilian objects.
In other words, residential areas cannot be targeted or used as shields. Likewise, civilian infrastructure used for providing civilians with essential services, such as water, electricity and gas, shall not be attacked or put in danger of being damaged or destroyed as a result of military presence nearby.
In 2017 alone, the Donetsk Filtration Station - providing water to 345,000 on both sides of the Line of Contact - has been stopped 35 times and out of work for 51 days due to fighting. Since the beginning of the conflict, nine water company workers operating and repairing facilities were killed and 25 injured. It is alarming that 45 schools have been damaged or destroyed since the beginning of 2017.
Humanitarian aid is often the only hope for people trapped in the conflict. Humanitarian assistance to the Non-Government Controlled Areas (NGCA) needs to be ensured by allowing access to more humanitarian organisations. As of today, over two million people are in need of humanitarian assistance in the NGCA, but limited access means these needs are not met. Severe food insecurity scores have nearly doubled in the NGCA since last year alone.
3. Ensure #FreedomOfMovement
People who used to live interconnected in the same region, the Donbas, have been separated since the beginning of the conflict by a 500-km long frontline, the Line of Contact. Families were divided, businesses disrupted, and access to services significantly shrunk. With an estimated 800,000 people internally displaced to the Government Controlled Area and over two million people in need of assistance in the NGCA, one million crossings across the Line of Contact are recorded every month. People move through the Line of Contact to get pensions, check on their property, access documentation, obtain health services, or reconnect with loved ones. Every time, they have to queue for hours, often in extreme weather conditions, on trips that can take over a day and become very expensive. Many eventually give up on crossing, furthering the separation. Additional crossing points between the Government and Non-Government Controlled Areas are crucially needed, in particular in the Luhansk region where there is just one crossing point that is only for pedestrians.
We, the undersigned organisations, are concerned by the toll that hostilities exert on civilians and civilian objects, by very limited opportunities to support the conflict-affected population in the NGCA and by the excessive restrictions on movement through the Line of Contact that exacerbate the situation of people willing to visit their families or to access their rights or essential services. Thus, we urge you both, Messrs. Presidents Putin and Trump, to make use of your crucial influence to promote actions by all parties to the conflict that will address the above mentioned concerns and, as a result, largely improve the daily lives of people who are affected by the conflict.
Read more about our work in Ukraine: