CONTINUING fighting in eastern Ukraine has led to the deadliest year since violence broke out: estimates suggest that more than 10,000 people have been killed in the four years of conflict.
Fighting broke out between Ukrainian government forces and Russian backed separatists in February 2014 . A month later, Russia formally annexed Crimea after a disputed referendum. A ceasefire,, signed in 2015 by both sides has been ignored, and the fighting continues.
Aid agencies say that 3.4 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance, and they are urging people not to forget eastern Ukraine, whose conflict now rates as the deadliest in Europe since the Bosnian war.
The Christian charity Mission Without Borders (MWB) is working in the region, delivering humanitarian aid and also supporting some of the millions of displaced people. The charity said that it has partnered with a local church, whose volunteers risk their lives daily, to deliver 2000 food parcels to communities in the conflict zones.
“The vulnerable are the hardest hit,” MWB said, “with many elderly people unable to access their pensions or obtain essential medicine for chronic diseases. As you pass through one village, written on the gates of bombed-out buildings and houses [see photo] are the reminders ‘Children live here,’ ‘People live here.’”
One volunteer said: “The poor people here are between a rock and a hard place. Last winter, the roads were on fire from shelling. We came to help, but guns were turned on us, and we only escaped by turning off our headlights and getting away as fast as we could through the dark.”
The Pope visited a Ukrainian Greek Catholic church in Rome last week, to offer prayers for those involved in the continuing conflict. He told Ukrainian exiles: “I understand that, while you are here, the heart throbs for your country, and not only palpitates with affection, but also with anguish, especially for the scourge of war and economic difficulties.”
MWB’s UK national manager, Jos Downey, said: “Ukraine is facing a horrible situation. The cutting of trade links between western Ukraine and the eastern occupied territories has brought increased tension in the Donbass region. Coupled to this, violence continues daily, and ceasefires are often broken, leading millions in the region to live in fear.
“That said, with our close links with the local Church, our team on the ground in Ukraine is in a unique position to respond to humanitarian needs in the conflict, and we ask that you support this work more than ever.”