A convoy of vehicles carrying humanitarian assistance and building materials arrived in the war-torn eastern Donbas region on Nov. 7 as the United Nations sent its “largest ever” mission to eastern Ukraine.
Columns of trucks and other vehicles arrived in the Donbas throughout the day, including 18 massive trucks loaded with construction materials to create shelters and rebuild damaged homes.
UN experts have previously warned of a “worsening humanitarian situation” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas, where more than five years of Russia’s war has claimed at least 13,000 lives and left 30,000 wounded. Of the killed, more than 3,300 are civilians.
In January 2019, UN relief workers called for a multilateral, international response to the deepening humanitarian crisis.
On Nov. 7, the UN said that this week’s mission is primarily focused on rebuilding homes and is jointly coordinated by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and is co-funded by 18 UN member states.
Pablo Mateu, the UNHCR representative in Ukraine, said the contents of the trucks would be used in communities on both sides of the 430-kilometer line of contact, where low-intensity warfare takes place on a daily basis between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed militants.
“Today 18 trucks of humanitarian assistance are being delivered by UNHCR across the contact line in east Ukraine,” Mateu said on Twitter. “17 trucks carry building materials to repair houses damaged by conflict in the last 5 years,” he added.
The humanitarian efforts are “saving lives on both sides of the contact line, especially during the difficult winter months,” said Mateu.
Truck convoys crossing the contact line may be an impressive sight, but they are part of a larger mission to the Donbas, which UN officials say is multifaceted and the biggest ever in Ukraine.
“Humanitarian Coordinator Osnat Lubrani today kicked off the largest ever humanitarian mission to the East with representatives from 18 Member States,” the refugee agency said in a Nov. 7 tweet.
Throughout the Donbas region, some 5.2 million Ukrainian civilians are exposed to the ongoing war, the UN has warned in multiple reports. Some 3.5 million are in need of urgent humanitarian assistance according to relief workers.
A recent UN report warned that public services and civilian infrastructure in eastern Ukraine have been devastated, while a paralyzed economy has created widespread unemployment and extreme poverty.
Ukrainians in the worst-affected areas of besieged Donbas struggle to access basic services: 240,000 schoolchildren and teachers are considered at high risk while two-thirds of health facilities have been rendered useless.