Heather Bellamy spoke with Mission Without Borders UK National Manager, Carly Jones.

Carly Jones
Carly Jones

UK charity Mission Without Borders is continuing to support the aid effort in the worst affected areas of Ukraine. The UN's latest figure show 1.3 million Ukrainians are internally displaced and more than 5 million people are in need of humanitarian aid. Reports of serious human rights violations and embargos blocking aid from accessing the disputed region, deepen an already desperate humanitarian crisis, in which Christians have been targeted with violence. To find out more Heather Bellamy spoke with Mission Without Borders UK National Manager, Carly Jones.

Heather: We have heard a lot about the current conflict in Ukraine on the news, but for those who don't follow the news, please could you begin by giving us a quick overview?

Carly: It's quite a complex situation that is happening in Ukraine at the moment. The area where most of the conflict is occurring is the region in Eastern Ukraine, which began in a dispute over Crimea. There is quite a significant Russian speaking population in that area. There was a referendum that led to Russia annexing Crimea back, but that area has been much disputed because many Ukrainians feel that that wasn't a legitimate annexation. Also the violence, when the conflict was at its height, spread far beyond Crimea into the Lugansk and Donetsk region. A lot of people have probably seen that in the news. Those areas have been quite heavily targeted in terms of bombing and destruction, so that is what has led to us now facing a crisis with the humanitarian issues around internally displaced people.

Heather: What are living conditions like for those displaced people?

MWB emergency food boxes for victims of Ukraine crisis
MWB emergency food boxes for victims of Ukraine crisis

Carly: Pretty dire to be honest. Ukraine is a very poor country anyway. The unofficial unemployment rates are standing around 30% and for refugees it is even worse.

What we are particularly concerned about is access to water, which, although they have restored around 60% of the water supplies in Eastern Ukraine, there are still 40% of people struggling for the basic need of having clean water and a fresh water supply.

It really is a challenging situation. Refugees are having to move within Ukraine to try and find new communities in which to integrate themselves and begin their lives again. Many people are leaving with absolutely nothing, because their houses have been destroyed and they have lost all of their belongings.

Heather: So what about food and shelter?

Responding To The Humanitarian Crisis In Ukraine

Carly: It's a challenge at the moment. Because of the difficulties accessing Eastern Ukraine as well, even getting those basic essentials out to people is quite difficult. The Christian community in particular has been fantastic, because churches and homes have been opened up to refugees. People don't have very much in the Ukraine, but nonetheless they are sharing what they have got and it's a really wonderful display of community and solidarity in the area.

Heather: What human rights violations are alleged to have taken place?

Carly: There is a difficulty in pinning down what's going on at the moment, because access is so restricted. We do get mixed reports, but one of the concerns that we have is around oppression for other Christian denominations. We are hearing reports that churches have been set fire to and that in some cases there have been reports of priests in particular being targeted with violence and kidnapping and in some cases torture. But I would like to emphasise that there are lots of mixed communications coming out of the area at the moment and I think that's why agencies like the UN are so concerned, because we don't have accurate information about what is really going on in terms of the human rights abuses there.

Heather: So in these allegations that are coming out, what are people saying as to why the Christians are being targeted and who is attacking them?

Queuing to receive MWB aid in war-torn east Ukraine
Queuing to receive MWB aid in war-torn east Ukraine

Carly: What's being said at the moment is that in the rebel controlled areas, the Russian Orthodox Church is the only Church that is being recognised and permitted in those areas. So that's where particularly around other religions and other faiths, there seems to be a lack of tolerance and unity.

Heather: In relation to the aid effort, what work are you doing in the Ukraine?