Lack of water leaves families on the brink in Ukraine
Due to constant shelling, Liudmyla and her two children lived without water for six months. Now UNICEF is helping to restore water systems across Ukraine
Despite the constant shelling and lack of running water, Liudmyla and her two children, 17-year-old Kyrylo and four-year-old Kateryna, have yet to leave their home city of Izyum since the outbreak of the full-scale war in Ukraine.
"I can't say there were interruptions in the water supply, because it was completely absent,” says Liudmyla. “From 7 March to 14 October, we had no water. Sometimes, it was supplied but since there was a lot of damage, it did not reach our fourth floor. So we had to move house to be able to use the well.”
For a long time, it was dangerous to leave the eastern city of Izyum, as it was constantly being shelled. But with water crucial to survival, especially for children, the family was forced to leave their home to find it. Sometimes, it took hours.
Kyrylo recalls walking to an abandoned house nearby with his mother to collect water from a well.
"We would collect water in bottles and bring it home. The water was bad, but we still drank it.”
They purified the water using a cloth filter, but it was still very hard and left a residue. However, the main thing was to be able to wash their hands and cook food.
Then, six months later, after the city became accessible, water finally returned to the taps. For Liudmyla and her family, this felt like a miracle.
According to Mykola Kochura, acting head of the Izium Water Utility, the fighting damaged water supply networks, pressure water pipes and tanks. Additional water treatment needed to be carried out, which had not been necessary before the destruction of the infrastructure. Power outages caused additional problems – water had to be pumped up in order to be supplied to people. Part of these works were done with the help of a generator provided by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF).
"Thanks to UNICEF's assistance, we will be able to restore three damaged sections of the water supply system and carry out the necessary routine repairs"
However, many sections of the water supply system still need to be repaired.
UNICEF with support from USAID Bureau of Humanitarian Assistance (BHA) and other partners continues to work to ensure that children across Ukraine have sustainable access to quality drinking water. In 2023, UNICEF provided access to water for approximately 3 million people. It is also supplying essential water cleaning equipment and chemicals to water companies, and repairing damaged infrastructure.