People in Need delivers water to thousands of people in shelled cities in eastern Ukraine

People in Need delivers water to thousands of people in shelled cities in eastern Ukraine

Published: May 30, 2022 Reading time: 3 minutes

The Russian invasion of Ukraine has entered its fourth month, and the humanitarian situation is dire and continues to deteriorate, especially in Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts in the east of the country. Civilians in bigger cities on the frontline like Sievierodonetsk, Lysychansk, and Bakhmut are exposed to constant air and missile strikes and artillery bombardment. According to reports, there are still 15,000 people in Sievierodonetsk, with another 20,000 in Bakhmut. These people have been forced to live in basements for weeks, hiding from constant shelling. In addition, food, water, and hygiene supplies have become scarce.

The people trapped inside these cities emerge from their basements or shelters simply to cook and forage for water. In rare moments when the electricity is working, they can pump water and replenish water supplies in shelters.

The severity of the situation is illustrated by the fact that more than half (4,872) of all civilian casualties so far verified in all of Ukraine have been recorded in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. At the same time, the civilian infrastructure has not been spared, and the streets are full of debris. In Luhansk and Donetsk Oblasts, over 16,000 buildings have been damaged or completely destroyed; this includes schools and hospitals.

Cut off from water

According to the Governor of Luhansk Oblast, as of 25 May, the oblast has been cut off from water, electricity, and gas supplies. The situation with water is particularly dire, and the possibility of restoring water supplies or bringing in water remains limited or impossible due to heavy fighting.

"In Donetsk Oblast, water is still accessible, but the quality is very bad. In most of the settlements, it is supplied hourly, and there is low pressure in the systems," says Petr Drbohlav, PIN’s Director of Eastern Partnership and the Balkans. The most difficult situations are in Toretsk, Avdiivka, Krasnohorivka, Marinka, and Vuhledar, where centralised water is no longer available. In Toretsk, water is supplied twice a week for a few hours.

Many people in locations destroyed by weeks of fighting are in danger due to the poor sanitary conditions caused by the war. Local authorities in Mariupol—which is no longer under the control of the government of Ukraine—said that conditions are ripe for the outbreak of diseases among an already weakened population. The citizens of Mariupol have limited or no access to water, sanitation, medicine, and health care. On 17 May, the World Health Organization (WHO) specifically warned that a cholera outbreak might occur in Mariupol because of the poor quality of the drinking water there.

Lifeline water supplies

Thanks to local partners and volunteers, People in Need can continue to deliver drinking water and hygiene items to frontline settlements. "In the last two weeks alone, we provided 13,170 litres of drinking water to at least 1,000 people in Lysychansk, Sievierodonetsk, Hirske and additionally 21,120 litres of water to 2,000 people in Vuhledar," says Petr Drbohlav.

The delivery of water also continues in other parts of Ukraine. "In Zaporizhzhya, around 2,000 people received emergency supplies of drinking water. Each person received 3x 6-litre bottles of drinking water," says Petr Drbohlav.

Besides the direct provision of water, we are also focused on restoring damaged centralised water supply systems in recently liberated areas. "In Kyivska Oblast, we are supporting water utility companies with repairs in locations like Irpin and Borodianka. To Borodianka, we delivered five new pumping stations that will ensure improved access to water for 10,000 people. We are providing similar support together with local authorities in Chernihivska Oblast. And we delivered two new pumping stations to Chernihiv. This is possible thanks to the financial support of European Union," says Petr Drbohlav.

It must not be forgotten that some 13 million people in Ukraine will need water, sanitation, and hygiene assistance between March and August 2022. UNICEF has already reported that 1.4 million people in eastern Ukraine alone, do not have access to running water.

Author: Petr Stefan, People in Need

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