UN-led aid convoy brings 23 tonnes of humanitarian goods across contact line in east Ukraine
Twenty-three tonnes of urgently needed aid items have reached the eastern Ukrainian province around Donetsk, after a humanitarian convoy crossed the contact line into non-Government-controlled territory, the UN said on Friday.
This is the second UN-organised convoy to pass through the Novotroitske crossing point since it reopened for the delivery of humanitarian cargo a little over a week ago.
The crossing is currently the only one that is operational for humanitarian aid deliveries along the contact line. It had been closed for humanitarian cargo movement since 24 February owing to security concerns.
"The opening is welcome as needs remain very high with nearly 1.7 million people in need of assistance in the non-government-controlled areas of Donetsk and Luhansk", said Jens Laerke, spokesperson for the UN humanitarian office (OCHA).
The first delivery was on 15 April, when five trucks crossed with 18 tons of COVID-19 supplies to the non-government-controlled area in Donetsk (NGCA).
Restrictions to aid delivery
"Since March last year, we have seen an almost complete closure of civilian crossings over the contact line due to COVID-19 restrictions", Mr Laerke told journalists in Geneva.
"For humanitarian deliveries, only this one crossing point was available, where we used to have four or five", he added.
The recent surge in hostilities along the "contact line" after seven months of relative calm following the July 2020 ceasefire has also resulted in more hardship and security risks for people forced to cross the contact line to access essential services.
Unconfirmed reports have indicated that people have resorted to taking the uncontrolled Ukrainian-Russian crossing point, which can be subject to administrative fines and legal challenges, in addition to incurring high travel costs.
Restrictions to access
Access restrictions to non-Government-controlled areas have "a direct impact on the capacity of the UN and our humanitarian partners to help the affected people", said Mr Laerke.
The current COVID-19 situation in the country means that needs are "obviously not decreasing but rather increasing", he continued.
"In March, Ukraine experienced the tripling of the number of COVID-19 cases nationwide compared with February, so the curve is going up and not down," explained Mr Laerke.
"But access is not the only challenge. Our 2021 Humanitarian Response Plan for Ukraine requires $168 million but remains severely underfunded at 13 per cent", he added.
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