Reaching non-government held areas in Ukraine05 October 2015
As a result of the continuing conflict in Ukraine, more than one million people have fled their homes in the Eastern area of the country. In response, international agencies and local charities are providing aid to the affected people in both government and non-government controlled areas (NGCAs). However, reaching the NGCAs has been difficult: persistent insecurity and damaged infrastructure have greatly complicated the delivery of food, medicine, construction equipment, WASH and shelter materials.
In particular, finding local transporters willing to deliver humanitarian assistance into NGCAs has been a big challenge: roads have been destroyed or blocked, checkpoints are closed at short notice, and the risk of Unexploded Ordnances (UXOs), such as bombs or grenades, is high. The possibility to use rail is limited due to operational and legal complexities, as well as damaged tracks. Finally, the paperwork required to move humanitarian cargo into the NGCAs is a lengthy, but critical process – more than 15 documents are needed to transport each batch of relief supplies.
To address these challenges, the Logistics Cluster was activated to ease the flow of humanitarian assistance – from preparing essential paperwork for partners to negotiating access, the Logistics Cluster team is ready for whatever comes their way. For example, convoys often face unpredictable constraints, such as sudden shelling close to humanitarian ‘access points’, long queues at checkpoints, or abrupt halts to humanitarian cargo movement for any number of reasons. In these circumstances, staff are on stand-by for several days to proceed.
In close coordination with partners, the Logistics Cluster also has a role in securing humanitarian access. After several months of negotiations with the Ukrainian Government, the first practical steps are being taken towards ‘green corridors’, which aim to streamline and simplify the procedures for sending humanitarian cargo to certain areas.
At the same time, recent restrictions imposed in the NGCAs have greatly limited cargo movement. For instance, on 24 September, UN agencies and International NGOs were requested by de facto authorities in Luhansk region to end operations and leave the area by 26 September (see news article). In addition, a substantial amount of relief cargo is awaiting delivery to the contested eastern regions. Despite these challenges and where possible, the Logistics Cluster continues to review all options, including by rail, sea, and other routes. A recent success was seen when the Logistics Cluster facilitated delivery for 240mt of shelter items to Horlivka, a city which was heavily damaged by the conflict, after more than a month of suspended transport services.
It’s a race against time to reach these areas before the winter arrives, and Logistics Cluster staff continue to take every opportunity to organize the delivery of humanitarian aid -- whether a cross border point opens up or access points change.