11 June 2018
The conflict in the east of Ukraine has escalated over last weeks, causing destruction and victims among both military and civilians, and aggravating the suffering of conflict-affected people both sides of the contact line.
Argentina Szabados, IOM Regional Director for South-Eastern Europe, Eastern Europe and Central Asia, visited Ukraine last week (4-9 June) to reiterate the UN Migration Agency commitment to further support conflict-affected communities through humanitarian aid, self-employment training and grants, initiatives aimed at social cohesion and peacebuilding, as well as through rehabilitation of social infrastructure. She met with IOM staff, partners, donors and beneficiaries in Kyiv and in the field.
“Ukraine is the largest displacement crisis in Europe since the Balkan wars,” said Argentina Szabados. “Now in its fifth year, with thousands dead and 1.5 million displaced, it is scandalous that this conflict remains largely forgotten.”
“Almost one-third of conflict-affected people in Ukraine, including displaced persons, returnees, and residents of Ukraine's eastern conflict area, are elderly, who have very scarce or no resources to take care of themselves and ensure they have enough food, fuels, winter clothing or medicines, as well as to repair their houses damaged by shelling,” she added.
Despite all this, the crisis response efforts in Ukraine remain underfunded, with the Humanitarian Response Plan for last year funded by 37% and the one for the current year covered only at 17% as of early June.
Since the annexation of Crimea and outbreak of the conflict in 2014, IOM has assisted over 245,000 internally displaced persons and conflict-affected people in Ukraine.
At the meeting with Argentina Szabados, Vadym Chernysh, Minister for Temporary Occupied Territories and Internally Displaced Persons of Ukraine, thanked IOM for supporting people who fled the conflict as well as members of communities which host them. “For successful conflict prevention and peacebuilding, it is of crucial importance to assist the most vulnerable people among both displaced and local populations, and we appreciate IOM’s continuous and active involvement in this work,” said Minister Chernysh.
As highlighted by Evhen Vilinskyi, First Deputy Head of Donetsk Regional State Administration, there are no reasons to expect that those displaced by the conflict will be able to return to their homes in the nearest future. “We will further need to work hard on assistance to conflict-affected people and we are grateful to IOM for the excellent cooperation benefitting displaced people and host communities,” he said.
Argentina Szabados was able to witness the resilience of Ukrainian conflict-affected people while meeting with IOM beneficiaries in Donetsk Region. “People who went through extremely traumatizing experiences and whose stories are really heartbreaking were able to start their lives from scratch, developing successful businesses or being employed in their new communities. IOM provided them with additional resources – assets and some training – but it is our beneficiaries’ motivation and courage that makes the result so impressive.”
Displaced woman, whose curtain shop received furniture from IOM, shares her story with IOM Regional Director Argentina Szabados (right) and IOM Ukraine Chief of Mission Dr. Thomas Lothar Weiss
IOM Regional Director Argentina Szabados visits IOM-supported sewing courses in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine
Single mother of two, residing in Toretsk, 5 km from the contact line separating two conflict sides in eastern Ukraine, welcomes IOM delegation at her household. This spring she received cash assistance from IOM to cover her most urgent needs
“The international community’s involvement is vital both in assisting the most vulnerable people in need and supporting millions of conflict-affected Ukrainians, while strengthening resilience and recovery at local levels. The people of Ukraine must be able to get back on their feet and build a future filled with hope,” said Argentina Szabados. "It is time to act".