3.2 million people in Eastern Ukraine still needed assistance due to inadequate water and sanitation, according to the Humanitarian Needs Overview 20191. Until 2019, gaps in data concerning overall levels of access to water supply and sanitation services and the humanitarian consequences of those knowledge gaps hampered planning of the correct humanitarian response.
The majority of 5.2 million conflict-affected people in Eastern Ukraine live in urban areas. These city people often rely on 70-years old, centralized water systems, which break, but which are also damaged by shooting and shelling: since 2016 there have been more than 350 incidents that damaged water supply infrastructure. Donbas is also officially classed as “water scarce” due to decades of industrial pollution and local geology. Water quality, not to mention public health and safety, is also subject to a number of environmental threats.
In both Luhansk and Donetsk oblasts people on both sides of the line of contact (LoC) rely on shared water sources.
In Luhansk, the “de facto authorities” buy water from the Government Controlled Area (GCA). In Donetsk the Siverskyi Donets-Donbas (SDD) channel feeds both areas, with water crossing back from Donetsk into GCA to supply Volnovakha, Pokrovsk and Mariupol. GCA and NGCA areas are interdependent, with no easy separation of the existing system.
When water stops:
• People living in cities cannot simply visit a local borehole, there aren’t enough, and water quality is often inadequate;
• Heating systems also stop because they need water from centralized systems to keep going. This is a major issue for families with children, older and disabled people; and • There is a real risk, especially in the winter, of the forced migration of large numbers of people.
In 2019 additional pressure was brought to bear on utility companies in the east. Reform of the energy sector seemed not to take into account the realities of working in a conflict zone: power was cut to water utilities, leading to an outbreak of water-related gastroenteritis. Meanwhile, utilities could not function normally: the largest, Voda Donbasa, supplies 3.8 million people, and works on both sides of the line of contact.
The primary aim of this study is to ensure that basic, humanitarian WASH needs of the population and the most vulnerable groups of people are met in conformity with international standards, and more especially those set out in the International Humanitarian Law and Sphere standards, as well as in Ukrainian standards.
The findings in this WASH Cluster Study of Humanitarian Needs in Eastern Ukraine hope to support the decision making process of humanitarian actors and donors, at strategic and program-level to ensure adequate WASH services are provided to the most vulnerable groups.