Water Quality in UkraineThe eastern European nation of Ukraine has been dealing with the aftermath of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear incident since the meltdown occurred. The immediate effects of the meltdown were a massive explosion and the release of a massive cloud of radioactive fallout into the environment. 30 years after the incident, water quality in Ukraine is still being negatively affected by radiation from the Chernobyl incident.

Tap water is unreliable in quality throughout the entirety of Ukraine. In the south, water infrastructure is poor and sparse, resulting in low-quality water with limited accessibility. The northern regions of Ukraine were most directly affected by the Chernobyl incident, and still see unsafe radiation levels in groundwater.

The factor which underlies all of these issues concerning water quality in Ukraine is the scarcity of naturally occurring groundwater in most of the country. In the Soviet era, much of Ukraine’s urban planning was justified by convenience for travel and commerce. The result is that a majority of Ukrainians live in regions which are naturally scarce in water supplies. The need to transport water throughout Ukraine to sustain the population has created an increased demand for fresh water.

With the cost of producing and obtaining clean water rising, there is a dire need for innovation in the purification of water. According to UNICEF, 40.6 percent of Ukrainian households do not use any method of purification, and drink their water from a tap or other unreliable source.

The best way to help ensure better water quality in Ukraine is to donate to organizations like UNICEF, who work to bring aid to impoverished people in need around the globe. Another group making a difference in improving water quality in Ukraine is the Water Charity group. Founded in California in 2007, the Water Charity group has orchestrated water infrastructure improvement projects around the world. In Ukraine, they fund and lead projects like school sanitation improvements and water purification. Groups like these are showing that there is substantial promise that improving water quality in Ukraine is a possibility for the near future.

Tyler Troped
Photo: Flickr

Belarus is an Eastern European country that was previously one of the founding republics of the defunct Soviet Union. Like many former Soviet states, Belarus struggles from residual problems left behind by the USSR’s past influence, such as a poor human rights record and institutionalized authoritarianism. Despite the country’s rooted issues, it displays encouraging signs of development in food security. Unlike many other troubled countries, there are very low levels of hunger in Belarus.

Since 1997, Belarus has boasted an impressive Global Hunger Index score of less than five, indicating that the country as a whole does not suffer from prolonged food shortages and famine. Additionally, Belarus enjoys falling mortality rates as well as a marked decline in stunting and wasting in children younger than five years of age.

Overall, hunger and related issues are not widespread in Belarus, even though it remains a developing country. Much of the success in ending hunger in Belarus is attributable to the government’s prioritization of food security. The 1998 National Food Security Program developed standards for food security as well as measures to achieve hunger-prevention goals.

While Belarus benefits from commendably low hunger statistics, the country’s continued growth is limited by persisting Soviet-era practices in numerous economic sectors, especially agriculture. Foreign aid and development institutions such as the United Staties Agency for International Development have provided and continue to provide assistance towards privatization and free-market reforms intended to stimulate growth throughout the Belarusian economy.

Although Belarus does not struggle from significant food shortages, the country continues to face the consequences of the infamous 1986 Chernobyl nuclear reactor meltdown, in which nearly 70 percent of the radioactive fallout from the compromised plant landed in Belarus. Radiation contaminates about one-fifth of the nation’s farmland, and many Belarusians in the surrounding areas eat food that comes from these contaminated areas. Many Belarusians suffer from health issues caused by or related to exposure to radioactive fallout or contaminated food.

Fortunately, many organizations work to improve conditions for Belarus and its people by continuing to provide aid. One nonprofit, Overflowing Hands, brings Belarusian youth to the U.S. for six weeks every summer to provide access to clean food and a healthy environment, counteracting the detrimental effects of radiation exposure. According to Overflowing Hands, health care professionals estimate that for every six weeks they are kept away from radiation exposure, children and teens gain two years back to their lifespans. Overflowing Hands even teaches the Belarusian youth compassion by getting them involved in food aid and community service programs.

Hopefully, organizations such as Overflowing Hands will be successful in providing meaningful support by minimizing the already low levels of hunger in Belarus and finding solutions for Belarusians exposed to radioactivity. Similarly to Overflowing Hands’ youth summer program, perhaps these organizations will even succeed in empowering vulnerable Belarusians to help others.

Isidro Rafael Santa Maria

Photo: Flickr