Crossing the line to feed people in need


June 8, 2015

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  • Mercy Corps is delivering food aid in hard-to-reach communities in the self-proclaimed Luhansk People's Republic in eastern Ukraine. The distributions will feed 73,000 people over the next month. Photo: Yana Malahova for Mercy Corps

After more than a year of war between government and non-government forces in eastern Ukraine, the humanitarian crisis is critical on both sides of the front lines. Around 1.3 million people are displaced inside the country, and 5 million are in need of urgent humanitarian aid like food, medicine and shelter.

But conditions for civilians in non-government controlled territories are particularly dire. Their towns have experienced some of the most sustained fighting, and movement of goods across the border is severely restricted. Food and supplies in these towns are extremely limited as a result.

And providing humanitarian aid to civilians in these areas is a major challenge.

But Mercy Corps has worked to develop connections — and build cooperation — on both sides of the frontlines, enabling us to organize a large-scale food convoy to towns in eastern Ukraine that are controlled by non-government forces.

The food aid comes in the form of 25,000 food parcels from the World Food Programme (WFP), each containing enough food, including canned beef, macaroni, rice, beans and salt, to feed three people for a week.

Deliveries began last week and will provide food to more than 73,000 people over the next month, with special priority given to the most vulnerable — the bedridden, disabled, elderly and those who do not receive any social benefits or regular income.

Many conflict-affected families in Ukraine have lost their livelihoods. Humanitarian aid, like the WFP food parcels Mercy Corps is delivering this month, is vital to helping them survive this crisis. Photo: Yana Malahova for Mercy Corps

Families like Dariya’s are desperate for this support. Dariya, 25, worked as a seamstress before the company she worked for shut down. Her husband left to find work in Russia, but the banking system in Ukraine is regularly disrupted so he is unable to send his young family money.

Now, Dariya lives alone with their 6-month-old daughter in the non-government controlled area of eastern Ukraine. And without any way to support her family, she is completely dependent on humanitarian relief as long as the conflict continues.

The food parcels — 594 per trailer truck — travel from government-held Kharkiv to cross the bitterly-contested “line of contact,” which separates government and non-government controlled areas of the country. Fighting between forces has flared constantly along this border despite a ceasefire negotiated in February.

The food parcels are distributed upon arrival in Luhansk city and in the hard-hit east Ukrainian cities of Lutugino, Pervomaisk, Krasniy Luch, Stakhanov, Kirovsk, Antratsyt and Bryanka.

This aid is particularly important as clashes continue to force people from their homes and disrupt the livelihoods they depend on to survive.

And as the conflict persists, humanitarian needs on both sides of the front lines are expected to remain high. But, despite the challenging environment, Mercy Corps will continue to supply lifesaving support to people, like Dariya and her daughter, who need our help the most.

How you can help

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