Ukraine: 750,000 Children Cut Off from Safe Drinking Water

On 13 February 2017, Nina (left) and her granddaughters, Diana (right), 14, and Sasha (center), 6, leave their home to collect water from the well located on the outskirts of the village. Photo: UNICEF
On 13 February 2017, Nina (left) and her granddaughters, Diana (right), 14, and Sasha (center), 6, leave their home to collect water from the well located on the outskirts of the village. Photo: UNICEF

At least 750,000 children are at imminent risk of being cut off from safe drinking water following a surge in fighting in eastern Ukraine, warned UNICEF on Friday.

The recent escalation of hostilities has damaged vital water infrastructure. Approximately 400,000 people, which includes 104,000 children, had their drinking water cut off for four days this week after two filtration stations for the South Donbass Water pipeline were destroyed by shelling.

“Nearly 3 million people in eastern Ukraine rely on water infrastructure that is now in the line of fire. We expect more families will be cut off from safe drinking water, putting children at severe risk of disease and other dangers,” said UNICEF’s Regional Director for Europe and Central Asia, Afshan Khan.

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In Donetsk, power lines providing electricity to the city’s water filtration station were damaged earlier this month, threatening more than 1 million people’s access to safe water.

Children cut off from clean drinking water can quickly contract water-borne diseases such as diarrhea. Girls and boys having to fetch water from alternative sources, or who are forced to leave their homes due to disruptions to safe water supplies, face dangers from ongoing fighting and other forms of abuse.

“All sides of the conflict must allow urgent repairs when water sources are destroyed and immediately stop the indiscriminate shelling of vital civilian infrastructure,” said Khan.

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UNICEF has provided access to safe drinking water to more than 1.5 million people in government and non-government-controlled areas of eastern Ukraine. This work includes trucking water to people when service is cut off, providing essential supplies and equipment and repairing damaged infrastructure.

After more than three years of conflict in eastern Ukraine, 3.8 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance and more than 1.5 million have been forced from their homes.

UNICEF calls for all sides to immediately recommit to the ceasefire signed in Minsk in August 2015 and to respect international humanitarian law, including allowing unrestricted humanitarian access.

In 2017, UNICEF is appealing for US$31.3 million to provide health and nutrition support, education, clean water, hygiene and sanitation as well as protection for children and families affected by the conflict in eastern Ukraine. The appeal has a funding gap of US$21.4 million.

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