Donetsk, Ukraine – With freezing temperatures creeping over eastern Ukraine, thousands of people in Donetsk find themselves struggling to survive what is expected to be a harsh winter in a time of war.
Surrounded by government forces, the rebel-held city has become one of the focal points of the battle between Kiev and pro-Russia separatists in the east. Fierce fighting over strategic targets under control of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People’s Republic (DNR) has left behind largely deserted streets.
In Kievskiy, Petrovskiy, and Yasinovataya – three of the most affected districts in the city – the majority of the residents are long gone. Those left behind are increasingly facing an intensifying humanitarian crisis without food, water, and safe housing.
From decaying bomb shelters built during World War II, to dark-and-damp basements in hospitals, schools and factories, these are places that have, in the past four months, become home to hundreds of people.
A majority here depend on humanitarian aid to survive – help that far too often arrives sporadically at shelters.
In an improvised shelter in the basement of a badly damaged hospital in Kievskiy, about 30 people inside say they’ve been without electricity for at least one month.
Many of the suffering are elderly with their limited pension payments halted by the government in Kiev. They say they hope the war ends soon so they can attempt to restart their lives.