This independence day, families struggle amidst conflict

Ukraine, August 24, 2015

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  • People survey the damage to a town in eastern Ukraine, where prolonged fighting has displaced 1.4 million people from their homes. Photo: Brendan Hoffman for Mercy Corps

As the conflict drags on in eastern Ukraine, the needs of people in affected areas are only becoming more dire. This week, while some are celebrating the country’s independence day, others are worried about the consequences of war.

It’s a bitter reminder of all that the country has been through in the past year, and since the start of the fighting.

“As Ukrainians around the world celebrate the nation’s independence day – August 24 – more and more people are suffering because of violence in the east,” says Stu Willcuts, Mercy Corps’ Country Director in Ukraine.

“People have exhausted all their personal resources, they have worn out the hospitality of their host families, and they are desperate for help.”

The U.N. estimates that as many as 5 million people are now in need of assistance because of the long-term fighting. Among those 5 million people, 1.4 million have been forced to flee their homes in search of safer shelter, often crowding in with relatives or in abandoned buildings.

In the non-government controlled areas of Ukraine, the most basic services — like water and electricity — are interrupted and unreliable. Some communities are cut off from the services entirely. Prices for food and medicine have skyrocketed, and people don’t have enough income to make ends meet.


People in eastern Ukraine who've been cut off from the country's water supply gather to receive clean water from Mercy Corps. Photo: Mercy Corps

Mercy Corps is working on the front lines of the conflict in eastern Ukraine to help people struggling to meet their daily needs. We are delivering food, repairing homes and providing water and sanitation services to some of the hardest-hit non-government controlled areas.

For communities and villages that are cut off from the water supply, we are delivering enough water by truck to serve about 8,000 to 10,000 people each day.

“As winter approaches, Mercy Corps is working hard to restore war-damaged homes in government-controlled areas,” says Willcuts. “More than 13,000 homes throughout Ukraine are in need of repair. We want to ensure that each family has at least one dry, winterized, warm room that can be used for shelter.”

In just the last month, 33,000 newly-displaced people have registered for support. Mercy Corps is running a telephone hotline that is advertised in newspapers and on posters in eastern Ukraine to help people who need food, water and other assistance.

“Every day we are meeting more and more people displaced by the conflict in east Ukraine,” says Willcuts. “The situation is even more dire in the non-government-controlled areas of Ukraine, where people have been cut off from basic services and support, and prices are on average 70 per cent higher than the national average.”

Mercy Corps’ teams have now provided food, water and sanitation services to more than 100,000 people in Ukraine, with plans to reach a total of 750,000 people by the end of the year.

How you can help

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