An escalation in fighting in Eastern Ukraine is threatening access to safe water and sanitation for 3.2 million people, including 500,000 children, as well as the safety of workers risking their lives to repair damaged infrastructure, UNICEF has reported,
During the last week of June, there were five separate, conflict-related incidents affecting water and sanitation facilities on Eastern Ukraine’s contact line, which divides Government and Non-Government Controlled Areas.
In the early morning of June 29, shrapnel from exploding shells damaged water pipelines near Horlivka, along the Siverski Donets-Donbass channel, which supplies water to more than 3 million people on both sides of the contact line. The same evening, night-shift workers at the First Lift Pumping Station near Vasylivka, Donetsk Region, had to run for their lives to the onsite bomb shelter to avoid shelling.
“UNICEF once again calls for an immediate end to the indiscriminate shelling of vital civilian infrastructure and the protection of water workers. These women and men risk their lives to make sure children and families have access to clean water, a fundamental human right for all,” said UNICEF Ukraine Deputy Representative Laura Bill. (July 4)
The President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky responded (July 5) that “the normal water supply in Donbas is one of the global issues, which are raised…I know that it is a critical issue here. I talked to the prime minister; we want to prevent the possibility of the shutdown of Donbas water at the level of our government and legislation level”, according to Ukraine news outlet 112 International.
Since the beginning of this year, fighting in the conflict-affected areas has damaged water and sanitation facilities 58 times. Nine water workers have been killed and 26 injured since the conflict began, including three this year.
“When access is cut or reduced, children and their families often have no choice but to rely on contaminated water and unsafe sanitation – this is particularly dangerous during the stifling summer temperatures we have seen recently,” said Laura Bill. “This past April, there was an outbreak of gastroenteritis within days of a water stoppage – unless we see an end to the hostilities more children will continue to suffer.”
“Water and Violence: Ukraine”, released February 2019:
Strategic Foresight Group’s “Water and Violence: Ukraine” (February 2019) examines the prospects of securing critical water infrastructure in Donbass? What can be done by the relevant actors and the international community?