One Year Since the Full-scale War in Ukraine, Aid is Still Trapped Behind the Frontlines

As the war in Ukraine approaches its second year, the humanitarian situation continues to escalate with 4 million people trapped behind frontlines and cut off from assistance. Mercy Corps urges the international community to broker a deal securing access to territories currently held by Russia. 

According to eyewitnesses and reports from human rights agencies, areas behind frontlines are suffering the most acute humanitarian need. Lack of clean water or healthcare is common, and  many shops and markets are closed or lack basic necessities. 

Aid deliveries face insurmountable barriers to enter territories currently controlled by Russia. Along the entire frontline there is only one conditionally operational crossing point. A new multilateral deal could enable humanitarian actors to cross frontlines and unlock access to the millions of civilians at grave risk, not because they are in the crossfire of conflict but because they are now stuck behind a line drawn by military force. Building on the success of the July 2022 Black Sea grain initiative, the United Nations should seize every opportunity to engage in humanitarian access discussions with Kyiv and Moscow, as it has successfully done in the past across other frontlines in Syria and Yemen.

Michael Young, Mercy Corps Country Director for Ukraine says: 

“We need a legal framework that permits, encourages, and protects humanitarian action behind the frontlines. The international community should take lessons from the multilateral deal struck in July 2022 that is already working: the grain export agreement for Black Sea ports. While shaky, it appears to be holding, and it has played a role in staving off famine in many parts of the world.

“Constant fighting, shelling civilian areas, shifting frontlines: These are sadly not new nor unique to Ukraine. Yet we must find a way across and beyond them – to do as much as possible to save lives and alleviate suffering no matter where vulnerable civilians are” 

“Any solution for aid agencies to access these areas would be fragile. But it must be attempted if the international goodwill towards the Ukrainian people is not to fail at this stark milestone. The laws of war, including guaranteeing humanitarian assistance, must be upheld – the lives of over 4 million people trapped behind frontlines depend on it.”

About Mercy Corps in Ukraine

Since the escalation of conflict in 2022, Mercy Corps has reached 1.38 million people in Ukraine and neighboring countries. The organization’s humanitarian response has focused on supporting local partners,  providing urgent cash assistance to families, household, food and hygiene kits for the coming winter, and information services for newly arrived refugees to Poland. Mercy Corps previously worked in Ukraine from 2015-2017, delivering humanitarian assistance to over 200,000 following the 2014 conflict.