WFP operations in Ukraine draw to a close

Lack of funding and access has forced the World Food Programme (WFP) to leave the country after helping more than 1 million conflict-affected people over the past four years.

World Food Programme
World Food Programme Insight


A violent armed conflict has been raging in eastern Ukraine for four years now. It has resulted in 4.4 million people needing humanitarian assistance, and left 1.6 million people displaced away from their homes. It brought suffering and disrupted the lives of hundreds of thousands of people living on both sides of the conflict line.

According to a food security assessment issued in September 2017, the number of food insecure people in conflict-affected eastern Ukraine had doubled from the time the conflict erupted.

WFP field monitor in Ukraine Tatiana Stoliarenko. “The most difficult thing is when people ask you: ‘Why this is happening? When will it stop?’” she says. Photo: WFP/Deborah Nguyen

However, lack of both funding and access forced WFP to end its operation in Ukraine by mid-year. WFP assisted 13,000 people through the winter months, until February 2018.

From August 2014 to February 2018, WFP provided food assistance to more than 1 million people among the most vulnerable and food insecure in conflict-affected Donetsk and Luhansk regions of Ukraine, delivering food parcels, issuing food vouchers or making cash-based transfers. WFP also injected over US$60 million into the local economy through local purchases and food vouchers.

In those four years, WFP touched many lives across the country and those lives touched us too. WFP will continue to monitor the food security situation in the country while other humanitarian actors will take over assisting the most vulnerable.

Ivan, originally from Veliki Novoselci in Donetsk oblast, holds his WFP card at the small flat where he lives in the government-controlled area of Donetsk. Photo: WFP/Deborah Nguyen

Ivan Plishenko, 70, thought he would be celebrating his fiftieth wedding anniversary at home with his wife, friends and family; he is not celebrating, he no longer lives at home and his wife was killed by shelling during the first year of the conflict.

“We promised each other that we would die together,” he says. Ivan is one of thousands of people who had to flee home because of the ongoing conflict in eastern Ukraine.

Ivan’s small pension is not sufficient to cover all his expenses. WFP vouchers enable him to buy some food, which he sometimes shares with the neighbour’s children.

“You may not know what it means to me,’’ he says. “It has given me some sense of normality.”

The conflict in Ukraine has affected elderly people like Petro the most. They are often out of work, with little or almost no resources and too weak to support themselves. Photo: WFP/ Tetiana Lialka

Many people affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine share the same story — jobs were lost, social payments delayed, food prices spiked beyond what they can afford.

“There were days when I did not eat anything.”

Petro, a 64-year-old pensioner, lives alone in a tiny settlement near Kramatorsk. Before the conflict, he worked in computer programming at the local factory.

After his pension payments stopped, WFP food assistance was a life-saving opportunity to survive the coldest period of the year. “There were days when I did not eat anything. I often relied on what people brought me,” he says.

When the conflict broke, the factory was shut down. Former employees were left with no choice but to find new job opportunities themselves. Unfortunately, at his age, Petro had zero chances of competing with the young generation in the IT sphere.

Despite severe funding constraints, WFP extended its 2017 operation to encompass January and February 2018, and made sure that the most vulnerable like Petro were not left without help in winter.

Viktoriia (right) and Oskana (middle) were both participants in WFP’s rehabilitation and training projects. The majority of participants in WFP resilience programmes single income mothers. Photo: WFP/Ganna Bryedova

Over the four years of WFP’s operation in Ukraine, it ran resilience programmes aimed at enhancing local livelihoods, increasing income, and rehabilitating productive assets. This included the rehabilitation of greenhouses and restoration of fruit gardens and water pipes.

These projects are the first signs of normality in the lives of rural communities in conflict-affected areas.

Most of the participants engaged in Food For Training and Food Assistance For Assets activities were families headed by women with children — some of the most vulnerable among the food-insecure population.

“My husband left me with a little daughter. He told me I’m a strong woman and I can handle it myself,” says Oksana, a 36-year old single mother. She fled hostilities in Luhansk city for Rubizhne in Luhansk Oblast.

Both Viktoriia and Oksana participated in WFP’s training programme, where they learned new skills that will help them find jobs in the future; they even dream of starting their own small businesses.

“All the hopes for a better future will feel real then.”

Women and men engaged in resilience programmes received monthly cash stipends. This way, they can learn a new profession or participate in the rehabilitation of the assets to the benefit of the whole community.

“We can’t wait to see this garden blossoming,” says Viktoriia whose face is blossoming with a smile. “All the hopes for a better future will feel real then.”

Learn more about WFP’s Food-For-Assets programme



World Food Programme
World Food Programme Insight

The United Nations World Food Programme works towards a world of Zero Hunger.