Humanitarian access and local organisations in Ukraine

Working and discussion papers
September 2017
A woman on the frontline of the crisis in Nikishina, Ukraine, 2015. Photo: European Commission DG ECHO

Over the past three years in Ukraine, almost 10,000 people have been killed and in 2016 more than 3 million were in need of humanitarian assistance. An estimated 1.4m people are internally displaced. With political instability in Kyiv, the annexation of the Crimean peninsula by Russia and an ongoing conflict between the Government of Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists, international humanitarian organisations and Ukrainian civil society groups alike have raised concerns over lack of access to people in need.

This paper analyses the level and quality of access that humanitarian actors – particularly local groups – have managed to carve out in Ukraine, the challenges to securing that access, the strategies that have been used to open up access and how access has waxed and waned over time.

It finds that given the limited international operational presence, assistance in non-government controlled areas was largely in the hands of local groups, including charitable and civil society organisations, private philanthropic organisations, church groups and networks of individual volunteers and activists. But in many ways, access in Ukraine was as much of a challenge for local actors as it was for their international counterparts.