UNHCR and partners raise awareness on COVID-19 in east Ukraine

WHO information materials are placed in collective centers, isolated villages along the ‘contact line’

On 18 March, UNHCR teams in east Ukraine started to place WHO COVID-19 posters to raise awareness on coronavirus. Two hundred posters that promote hand washing and other preventive measures will be placed in collective centers, isolated villages along the ‘contact line’, checkpoints, as well as in some locations in non-government controlled areas (NGCA).

On 18 March, UNHCR and its NGO partner Slavic Heart started placing the WHO COVID-19 posters in collective centers for internally displaced persons (IDPs) in Sviatohirsk. Many of the IDPs who live there have disabilities and serious medical conditions.

On 19 March, UNHCR continued to place WHO COVID-19 posters in isolated villages along the ‘contact line’.

According to an assessment in 2019, in these isolated settlements around 41% of family members are over the age of 60, and 13% have a disability.

Furthermore, UNHCR’s NGO partner Right to Protection produced, printed and is distributing posters with information on newly amended legislation related to pension payments, social services provision, etc.

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Situation at the checkpoints in east Ukraine: UNHCR and its NGO partner Proliska and the Right to Protection have reinforced protection monitoring of the checkpoints in east Ukraine. On 18 March, UNHCR visited Novotroitske and Mariinka checkpoints.

Normally these two checkpoints have about 7,000 crossings per day combined; yesterday just over 1,000 persons went to the NGCA and about 100 came to GCA.

The number of crossings has dropped dramatically. Both checkpoints report that the number of people going to NGCA is ten times higher than those entering. People who cross continue to face difficulties at checkpoints. UNHCR witnessed four cases where parents got separated from their children or families due to being in different locations at the time of quarantine or having different residence registration. Nevertheless, both checkpoints have informed UNHCR and NGO Partners that they will make exceptions on humanitarian grounds and on an individual basis in consultation with the Joint Forces Operation, especially if individuals travel for purposes of medical treatment or attending funerals. Furthermore, the de facto authorities of NGCA in Donetsk have announced that their side of the contact line will close starting from 00:00 on 21 March.

As a response, UNHCR’s NGO partner Donbas SOS (this NGO manages a hot line conflict affected and internally displaced persons) is informing all callers about crossing the contact line, and they have set up an answering machine with information about the closing of the checkpoints.

People unable to cross: UNHCR’s NGO partner Proliska is collecting information on the individuals who are unable to cross the checkpoints due to quarantine restrictions. In total Proliska registered 81 cases in the three days since introduction of the new restrictions (16 March). The majority of cases (52) were documented on the first day (Monday) as previously reported. Out of those, 31 were allowed to cross the checkpoints.

Among documented cases, 35 were identified as vulnerabilities or specific needs (family separation, serious medical condition, caregivers of persons with serious medical conditions, and lack of accommodation for students).

Of these vulnerable individuals, 21 were allowed to cross and 14 were not allowed. Please note that Proliska is keeping in touch with those who were unable to cross and following up. Erratum: In our last Flash Report (17 March), we mentioned that “all” persons stranded were provided with accommodation. That is incorrect. Thankfully, many of those who were unable to cross had family members and friends in the area to accommodate them. For very few cases, Proliska facilitated accommodation or facilitated their stay in the UNHCR tents managed by the State Emergency Services.

Non-food items: In the town of Stanytsia Luhanska, UNHCR is supporting the Territorial Centers in their COVID-19 response and has handed over diapers for non-mobile elderly people. Otherwise, UNHCR continues to operate in east Ukraine with its usual protection and shelter interventions on both sides of the ‘contact line’.