‘2 million Donbass citizens displaced - people desperate to join their relatives’

RIA Novosti / Maksim Blinov
Countless families have been separated because of the Ukraine crisis, and authorities on both sides of the conflict should work jointly in order to improve access to benefits and the freedom of movement, William Spindler, UN refugee agency, told RT.

RT:People are fleeing Ukraine despite the truce - an estimated 23 thousand in just the last two weeks. Has the situation gotten any better since the ceasefire took hold?

William Spindler: No, the situation seems to be getting worse, in fact. Fighting is going on or has been happening recently around the towns of Lugansk, Donetsk and Mariupol. The number of people being displaced within Ukraine and also going to other countries has increased and now stands at over two million in total. 1.2 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine, and over 800,000 people have gone to neighboring countries, mainly to the Russian Federation, but also to Belarus, to Poland, to Germany, to France, Italy and other countries.

The situation is very serious, is very worrying - this is one of the worst humanitarian crises in the world today. We would like to see greater efforts to bring this crisis to an end, the diplomatic efforts to bring conflict to an end needs to be stepped up, but also the humanitarian response on the ground needs to be stepped up.

We have offices in Lugansk and Donetsk, in many parts of Ukraine. We are distributing essential aid, but our efforts are not sufficient to deal with the needs, and we need also more funding in order to continue our activities. So far, we have less than 40 percent of our needs covered; we need more resources in order to continue our work inside Ukraine.

READ MORE: Ukraine humanitarian crisis ‘one of the world’s worst’ – UN refugee agency

RT:The shaky truce continues to be violated... Who is to blame for that?

WS: Our organization is dealing with the humanitarian consequences of the conflict; we are not there to monitor the conflict itself. We’re trying to deal with the suffering of the civilian population in areas both under the control of the government in Kiev, but also in areas not under the control of Kiev. We have offices in Lugansk, in Donetsk, we’re active there, but we’re also active in the rest of Ukraine trying to help the response to the needs of the most honorable of the displaced people

RT:Many civilians still remain in conflict zones. Can anything be done to provide them with shelter?

WS: Yes, this is something that is urgently needed. One of our main concerns in fact is the difficulty that people have in crossing the conflict line. We know that families have been separated; in some cases people need to cross the line in order to join relatives or to obtain the benefits that they are entitled to. It is not very easy at the moment. This is something that we would like to see both sides working on in order to improve the access and the freedom of movement among people. Conditions inside areas such as Lugansk and Donetsk continue to be very difficult. Many people are living in substandard accommodation and this also needs to be improved.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.