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19 February 2015 – Several days after parties to the conflict in Ukraine signed a ceasefire, the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) announced today it is scaling up its emergency operations to feed close to 190,000 vulnerable people displaced and trapped in the beleaguered country.
Over the next few months, WFP will increase its assistance, including the distribution of locally-procured food to over 110,000 people to meet urgent needs in areas where food supplies have dwindled. It said it will need $9 million to continue to provide this humanitarian aid until June.
“The humanitarian situation has deteriorated over the last few months in Donetsk and Luhansk with people fleeing their homes and taking refuge with extended families, in shelters, rented apartments and even in railway carriages,” said Carlo Scaramella, WFP Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East, North Africa, Eastern Europe and Central Asia.
“In areas where the fighting is still raging, the situation is even more precarious with civilians without access to functioning markets or food supplies,” he added.
WFP’s food rations include rice, vegetable oil, wheat flour, and canned food. In relatively stable areas with an influx of displaced families, WFP plans to distribute three rounds of food vouchers for nearly 80,000 vulnerable people, particularly the elderly and female-headed households. This will allow displaced people to buy food and also inject money into the local economies of their host community – usually overburdened by hosting displaced people from other areas.
According to the World Food Programme, over a million people have been displaced in Ukraine since the start of the crisis. Many of them have exhausted their life savings and have no access to jobs. Food prices have also risen dramatically in the eastern parts of the country. A recent survey found that prices in the area have gone up by 30 percent for basic staples like bread and milk and by 75-80 percent for meat and cheese, compared to the same period last year.
Particular attention will be focused on providing food assistance to displaced elderly people and the host communities caring for them. A WFP team met newly displaced families from areas near Debaltseve and Horlivka and heard their stories of escaping the conflict and how there are still people trapped in besieged areas. A 90-year-old woman, evacuated at night by her neighbours following heavy fighting in her village near Debaltseve, is said to be taking refuge in a railroad car in Sloviansk’s main railway station.
The World Food Programme began its operations in Ukraine in August 2014 and has reached over 50,000 people with food vouchers and food parcel distributions at a cost of $21.5 million.