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Conflict And COVID Effects On Water Access And Basic Services In Eastern Ukraine

KYIV, Ukraine

Ongoing shelling in eastern Ukraine continues to disrupt vital water supplies and access to food and basic services, a 25 June assessment from the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) reports. Meantime movement restrictions due to COVID-19 have particularly affected thousands of already vulnerable and elderly populations.

“COVID-19 has exacerbated a protracted humanitarian crisis and people, already exhausted by this ongoing conflict, are reaching breaking point. Families are facing severe challenges to meet basic needs and are forced to make impossible choices on whether to buy food or medicine,” said Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) Country Director, Ana Povrzenic.

During lockdown, frontline workers installing water and sanitation facilities have had to seek safety from heavy shelling in parts of Donbas. Vital maintenance and repair work has been halted and access to clean running water has been curtailed.

Based on a recent food security survey, the report reveals that about 75 percent of the population are struggling to meet basic needs; 82 percent of respondents in the conflict-affected areas in Luhansk and Donetsk reported severe price hikes for food and hygiene supplies. A consumer measurement of prices for potatoes, cabbage, onions and carrots has increased by almost 30 percent since March.

The situation is exacerbated by loss of income due to lockdown measures. Approximately 65 percent of the population has had no humanitarian assistance in two months and aid requests are only about 15 percent funded.

NRC's assessment particularly highlights issues affecting the elderly population in non-government-controlled areas. All movement across the “contact line” has been halted since the onset of the virus, preventing access to social services and even banking.“Efforts must be stepped up to support the provision of water and sanitation services to people in need, especially the elderly, who feel frightened, forgotten and vulnerable to Covid-19. A properly resourced and coordinated humanitarian response, underpinned by strong political engagement, is necessary to address these systemic issues or else the crisis will take a downturn spiral,” Povrzenic added.

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