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International community told “not to forget” civilians caught up in bitter Ukraine conflict

Ukraine’s biggest charitable foundation is spearheading efforts to bring relief to the thousands of innocent civilians caught up in the country’s bloody conflict in Donbass

By: EBR - Posted: Monday, June 4, 2018

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“These are the human faces behind the politics and fighting. They show that this war is not just about bombs and politics but about human suffering. It is about the victims, each of whom have a name, a face and a story to tell.”
“These are the human faces behind the politics and fighting. They show that this war is not just about bombs and politics but about human suffering. It is about the victims, each of whom have a name, a face and a story to tell.”

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by Martin Banks

Nataliya Yemchenko is steering the efforts of the Humanitarian Aid Centre of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation in Ukraine to provide aid to civilians caught in the crossfire of war in Ukraine.
She was in Brussels on Wednesday to participate in the annual assembly of the European Foundation Centre and told of the “tragic” humanitarian crisis in Eastern Ukraine which, she says, has largely gone unnoticed.
This involves civilians who have been displaced by the conflict who urgently need new housing and jobs and about 450,000 people who live in the “non-government-controlled” areas who lack basics like food, medicine and water.
A third group live on the frontline, the contact line, who are at daily risk of the thousands of land mines thought to have been left by both sides in the conflict.
A recent report noted there were 117 separate land mine injuries in 2017, making Ukraine the worst country in the world last year for such incidents.
Yemchenko, also a Director of Public Relations and Communications of System Capital Management, said that after nearly five years of war it was the “innocent victims”, including an estimated 200,000 children, women and the old, who have suffered most.
She said, “These are the human faces behind the politics and fighting. They show that this war is not just about bombs and politics but about human suffering. It is about the victims, each of whom have a name, a face and a story to tell.”
The stories of 11 such people and families are captured in a photo book, translated into English, which she presented at the conference.
They tell the story of people like Alena, a single mother who, shortly before the conflict erupted in 2013, adopted three young kids. The family had to flee their home after hostilities began and they were forced to start a new life elsewhere.
It also tells the story of Milana, a three year old girl whose mother was killed by a bomb in 2015 and who also lost a leg in the explosion. Despite the tragedy she has managed to rebuild her life but is part of a generation that has “known nothing but war,” said Yemchenko.
The old are also affected, such as Sofia, a senior citizen who lives with her disabled son, 54. They are one of only three families still living near the airport, one of the most heavily shelled areas in Donbass.
They exist, said Yemchenko, without access to hot water or gas and in an area that has no shops or pharmacists.
“Remember, this is all happening in the 21st century on Europe’s doorstep,” she stressed.
She said that the fighting in Donbass is escalating, but that the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation and others such as the Red Cross and People In Need, a Czech Republic based NGO, were still dedicated to trying to help the community recover from the collateral damage of the fighting.
Yemchenko and Roman Rubchenko, Director of the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, presented the album of photographs, ”Donbass and Civilians” to the conference  during the session “A matter of culture – Civil society and democratic dialogue in Central and Eastern Europe”.
The EFC unites more than 500 philanthropic organisations in Europe and the topic of the 29th Conference, which this year is held as a part of the European Year of Culture, is “Culture Matters: connecting citizens, uniting communities”. The 3 day event which concludes on Thursday, includes a series of exhibitions, topical sessions and site visits.
Rubchenko said the Ukrainian delegation focussed on drawing the attention of the world community to one of the largest armed conflicts of the XXI century “which is taking place today in the heart of Europe.”
Yemchenko added, "The book is about the war and the civilians of Donbass - 11 stories about the fate of the most unprotected people: the children, who were injured, and the old people, who were trapped in the frontline conflict zone. All these people have managed to survive, partly thanks to the Rinat Akhmetov Foundation, the largest charitable mission in Ukraine.
“The stories of these civilians are so shocking you just cannot keep silent about them. We want more people to know about them to tell them the truth about the events in the Donbass", said Yemchenko.
The UNO reports 4.4 million victims of the war in eastern Ukraine, and Donbass is recognised as one of the most heavily mined places on the planet. The UNICEF reports 220,000 of the Donbass children are forced to attend schools in the war zone.
Yemchenko said, “The children risk being wounded or killed every day, by land mine blast or shells. They study in buildings with bullet holes in the walls and windows with sandbags, where bomb shelters are equipped in the basements, and fragments of shells lie in the yards. The armed conflict in Ukraine has been waged now for more than four years. We cannot remain silent or pretend that it does not concern us."
"This is a human tragedy happening on the doorstep of Europe.”
She said the aim of the foundation’s efforts was to raise public awarness of the humanitarian needs of all those affected.


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