12:20 Oct. 21, 2016
Ukraine's internally displaced population is larger than the total number of Syrian refugees in the EU. In absolute terms, the conflict in Ukraine is Europe's largest humanitarian crisis
More than two and a half years since the war in Ukraine began, and more than 17 months after the Minsk II cease-fire was signed, life remains a daily struggle for survival for the 1.7 million Ukrainians who fled the conflict.
They are what the United Nations defines as "internally displaced persons," or IDPs. The term "refugee" is technically limited to people who leave their home country due to war or other disasters.
A 2016 report by the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center pegged the number of Ukrainian IDPs at 1.7 million people. The U.N. estimates that 3.7 million Ukrainians have been affected by the war, 3.1 million of whom still require direct humanitarian assistance.
Now living in villages, towns, and cities scattered throughout all of Ukraine, but most prevalently in places closest to the front lines, this internally displaced population is larger than the total number of Syrian refugees in the EU. In absolute terms, the conflict in Ukraine is Europe's largest humanitarian crisis.
Those who have homes or family members on the other side of the contact line sometimes wait for more than a day at checkpoints trying to cross from government- to separatist-controlled territory. Homes left abandoned are often looted or turned into military garrisons.
Moreover, aid groups in Ukraine have to constantly fight against a perception in the Western media that the war in Ukraine has ended, and that the cease-fire has calmed the fighting.
"All the media is in Syria, and all the funding is there," said Krystyna Kovalenko, communications assistant for the U.N. World Food Programme in Ukraine. "This is a forgotten war."
Combat is still ongoing in eastern Ukraine, and in villages scattered throughout the war's "gray zone"—the no man's land between the entrenched positions of Ukraine's military and combined Russian-separatist forces—the situation remains too dangerous for more than 1 million people to return home.