As the war in Ukraine has heightened, citizens have faced devastation as more than 1.4 million Ukrainians lacked clean water as of April 2022 — a consequence of the recent Russian invasion. Additionally, 4.6 million people further east of the country only have “limited access” to clean water. The most significant reason for the lack of water is the damage to water infrastructure as a result of the conflict. In just the eastern region of Ukraine, civilians noted a minimum of “20 separate incidents of damage to water infrastructure” to date. On April 25, 2022, Serhiy Hadai, the governor of Luhansk, a city in eastern Ukraine, stated that multiple water pumps and electricity plants are under attack.
Water Shortage Looms
Water is an essential human need and many other regions that also rely on aid for clean water, food and medicine are under stress as organizations are redirecting much aid to address the consequences of the conflict in Ukraine. Companies that supply aid warn that water shortages are a major cause of concern because a lack of access to clean water holds immense health risks, specifically for the elderly and children.
A spike in “transmission of diseases such as cholera, typhoid, polio, hepatitis A and diarrhea” can occur as Ukrainians lack clean water. Under international law and the Geneva Convention, the treaty that governs global armed conflicts, specifically “targeting water and food supplies” is illegal.
On March 16, 2022, a Russian-led attack on a theater in Mariupol led to the deaths of a minimum of 300 people and Russian forces are blocking much-needed humanitarian assistance from entering the devastated city. The city of Mariupol is also facing a tragic shortage in food and medical supplies as the damage continues to mount.
WASH Cluster Assists Ukrainian Communities
WASH Cluster, a group of 32 international organizations that the United Nations Children’s Fund leads is working to assist communities in Ukraine by supplying water and providing water treatment chemicals, supplies of bottled water and generators. The WASH Cluster has predicted that about 4.5 million people are at risk of losing access to water supplies due to the ongoing war.
President Biden Provides Aid
On March 24, 2022, President Biden ordered the Combined Federal Campaign (CFC) to shift focus to assist in alleviating the damages in Ukraine as Ukrainians lack clean water and face other critical shortages. Accordingly, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) “will open a CFC special solicitation” to assist victims of the war with securing their basic needs.
Purifying Water Filters
Some survivors in the city of Mariupol are resorting to melting snow and collecting rainwater for drinking purposes. Most people have no access to tap water or bottled water, and in fact, residents, consider these a luxury right now. In March 2022, Doc Hendley from the nonprofit Wine to Water sent “12,000 water filters to Ukraine and border areas in Poland and Romania where refugees” are seeking solace. These filters have a lifespan of more than 10 years and have the ability to purify more than 2.4 million gallons of water a day. The filter’s design and size are ideal for times of crisis as the filter is compact enough to fit into an individual’s pocket.
Hope Amid Chaos
Since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, many people fear the longevity of future hostilities. Water is not just an essential human need but is also a human right, and currently, more than 6 million Ukrainians lack clean water to some extent. Through international aid, Ukrainians are able to meet their basic needs, providing hope to Ukrainians for a brighter tomorrow amid a tragic period of conflict and violence that will eventually become a part of world history.
– Christina Papas