Hundreds of thousands in eastern Ukraine at grave risk after water supplies disrupted – UN aid chief

Many homes on the front line in Ukraine have been so badly damaged by shelling that they remain abandoned. Photo: Daniel Gerstle/IRIN

14 June 2017 – Raising alarm over lack of safe drinking water for hundreds of thousands of people on both sides of the so called contact line in Donetsk Oblast of eastern Ukraine since 11 June, the top United Nations relief official today called on all parties to the conflict to abide by their obligations under international law and ensure that civilian areas and infrastructure are not targeted.

Some 400,000 people have not had access to water for four days due to shelling of the First Lift Pumping Station of the South Donbass Water Pipeline this past Sunday. Water supply to another 700,000 could also be cut off at any time.

“The conflict, now in its fourth year, is denying vulnerable people of their most basic need – water,” said the UN Emergency Relief Coordinator, Stephen O'Brien in a statement today.

“I appeal to all parties to the conflict to immediately ensure a prolonged cessation of hostilities to allow critical repair and maintenance to restore the water supply, including the facilitation of any movements across the 'contact line'.”

In the statement, Mr. O'Brien, who is also the UN Under-Secretary-General for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, expressed deep worry over possible outbreaks of water-borne diseases and the effect that water cuts will have on health facilities in the area.

“Emergency services and aid agencies are working together to provide water to affected communities by any means possible [but] the need for urgent and permanent repairs to the pumping station is paramount,” he added, reminding all parties to the conflict of their obligation to respect civilian areas and infrastructure.

“The intentional disruption of access to sufficient quality water supply in conflict-affected areas is a clear violation of international humanitarian law,” he underscored.

Since the start of the conflict in April 2014, more than 1.6 million people have become internally displaced and some three million are estimated to be in territory controlled by armed groups. Also, more than 10,000 people, including over 2,700 civilians, have lost their lives and about 24,000 injured.


News Tracker: past stories on this issue

Conflict in Ukraine enters fourth year 'with no end in sight' – UN report

Related Stories