Conflict has been ongoing in Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts since May 2014, with spikes of violence in June 2014 and again in January-February and in July 2015. Attempts to negotiate a political solution to the conflict led to the ‘Minsk’ ceasefire signed between the Governments of Ukraine, Russian Federation and the non-state actors in September 2014. However, the truce collapsed within days, similar to a new ceasefire agreement signed in February 2015. Relative calm around the Contact Line (CL) has ensued since September 2015, however, the situation remains fragile given lack of trust between the parties to the conflict.
From the end of 2014, Ukrainian legislation has restricted freedom of moment of both people and goods, in addition to the cessation of salary and pension payments in the non-governmental controlled areas (NGCAs), increasing hardship for local populations. An estimated 0.8 million people currently live around the CL, with an additional 2.7 million people living in NGCAs. Many people have been displaced within and from the area, and many more frequently travel between NGCAs and government-controlled areas (GCAs) to access goods and payments, or to check on families and properties.
The major water pipelines serving the NGCAs predominantly draw from intakes in the GCAs and around the CL, making the urban centres at the ends of these pipelines vulnerable to water and heating shortages due to conflict damages. Nonetheless, WASH infrastructure in the target area prior to the conflict was already affected by a lack of adequate maintenance and financial viability. Large portions of the network and production facilities are in need of upgrade to reduce water losses and improve energy efficiency. Waste-water infrastructure faces similar issues and some reports from the target area indicate flows of poorly or non-treated waste water into surface water bodies. Heating infrastructure, which is frequently water-based, is also plagued by obsolete equipment and lack of adequate maintenance.
Surface and groundwater resources in the area are at particular risk of contamination incidents due to intense industrial and agricultural activities in the target area. Some studies covering the target area indicate already existing chemical and bacteriological contamination in both ground and surface waters, and up to 50% of non-compliance with national standards for piped water supplies in south-eastern Ukraine.
The assessment was conducted with the aim of providing an evidence base for WASH cluster partners to define emergency and recovery activities in the Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts, with a focus on those areas outside of governmental control and affected by the ongoing conflict. Data was collected remotely over the month of July 2015 through Key Informants (KIs) identified at centralised and decentralised water facilities in GCAs, NGCAs, and around the CL, in addition to KIs in conflict-affected communities, schools and health centres around the CL and in NGCAs. The findings of the assessment are laid out in the Findings section, and highlight:
• A reduction in centralised and decentralised water production due to conflict damages and reduced power reliability, particularly around the CL, and impacting locations further down the pipeline
• The existence of water quality monitoring facilities in the majority of water production facilities, however, relatively infrequent monitoring primarily around the CL and NGCAs
• Ongoing chlorination in the majority of water production facilities, however, indications that chlorination levels may be insufficient to ensure water quality
• Site-specific support needs to improve water production efficiency in both centralised and decentralised water systems, ranging from longer-term rehabilitation and extension of infrastructure, to rapid repairs and replacement of key equipment
• Indications that waste-water systems are also affected by conflict damages, particularly around the CL
Communities & institutions:
• Damages affecting a significant proportion of assessed institutions, primarily around the CL
• Decreased reliability of water and power supplies in communities and key social institutions around the CL and in NGCAs
• Indications of inadequate solid waste management services, particularly in rural areas
• High levels of secondary water treatment in households in the target area, and the availability of privately produced or bottled water in the majority of locations assessed
The programmatic implications are discussed in detail in the Needs Analysis section of the report below, and identify additional areas of investigation. Broadly, these point to a need to:
• Support WASH service providers with water treatment and testing consumables, and equipment and funding for emergency repairs and small-scale interventions to improve water production efficiency. This will be essential not only in terms of domestic water supply, but also for industry and livelihoods, and heating systems during the winter months
• Support key institutions with sufficient water storage / treatment to maintain services despite breaks in water supply
• Support households with regards secondary household water treatment and hygiene
• Investigate local waste-water and solid waste services, and private water production Given the structural factors underlying the poor state of WASH infrastructure and services in the target area, it will be critical to link with development actors to ensure complementarity and a feasible exit strategy for humanitarian interventions.