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Relief for Survivors of the Flood Zone in the Kherson Region

Date: June 12, 2023

Press Clip Source: LRT
Link to Source: Here

The collapse of the Nova Kakhovka Dam and the resulting flooding caused by Russia in the Kherson region, has raised many concerns about disease - especially a cholera outbreak. Kristina Preikšaitytė, Head of Programmes for Nonviolent Peaceforce Ukraine, and Daiva Razmuvienė, an epidemiologist, were interviewed by public broadcaster, Lithuanian Radio and Television (LRT).

It seems that the first cases of cholera are already being recorded in the region, although officially it has not been announced, for example, the World Health Organization has not provided any details?

So far, no cases of cholera have been formally recorded in the cities of Odessa and Mykolaiv, however, volunteers in Kherson have given us information about isolated cases of cholera. These volunteers are currently trying to establish water treatment and health centres to treat waterborne diseases.

What information is being given to the residents? You are in Odessa, 300 kilometres away from the Kakhovka Hydroelectric Power Plant, but it is known that all the water is gradually moving towards the Black Sea. Are you being provided with the information on, for example, what to do and what not to do in Odessa or anywhere else in the region?

The flooding poses an additional long-term health risk due to the discharge of hazardous chemicals
from factories located downstream. Floodwaters are also contaminated with biological sewage. After the dam at the hydroelectric power plant was breached, approximately 150 tons of petroleum products entered the water, which could spread downstream all the way to the Black Sea. These petroleum products can contaminate soil, wildlife, and vegetation. This also increases the risk of waterborne diseases, including cholera, among others. Currently, it is recommended that people only drink water from safe containers and apply caution when using running water in homes.

While in Odessa, have you noticed people's concerns and their attempts to acquire more drinking water? Perhaps medication as well? Or are people already so accustomed to war and abnormal situations that they have accepted this situation quite naturally?

I would agree, the situation is such that the majority of people are already accustomed to these difficult crises. However, water is particularly needed in Kherson itself. Many people in Odessa and Mykolaiv are trying to buy drinking water and send it to the city of Kherson. In Kherson itself, at least 16,000 litres of drinking water are needed daily. The heavy rain and thunderstorms that started yesterday will likely further worsen the already severe humanitarian situation. Evacuation and humanitarian aid delivery will be even more challenging.

Are you aware that - the Ukrainian government announces - as a non-governmental organization, you are already being informed that you can also contribute by providing assistance? What provisions of medicines and vaccines are there in Ukraine, for example, specifically for cholera?

Due to strict security protocols, most international organizations cannot come to Kherson. The majority of the burden to help the civilians affected by the flood falls on local volunteers. There is no shortage of humanitarian resources in Ukraine, but they do not reach the civilians most affected by the war and the current flood. International organizations deliver humanitarian aid to the outskirts of Kherson and leave it to volunteers to distribute, without providing financial support for fuel or stipends, and without providing protective equipment such as vests or helmets. Our organization is currently the only one that has a permanent office in the city of Kherson.

This responsibility needs to be shared. Unlike in other global humanitarian crises, in Ukraine, local volunteers and communities are well-prepared to protect and support each other. Local coordination works excellently, these volunteers know where the highest number of affected individuals are, how to reach them best, and what the greatest needs are. International organizations need to not only take into account these local systems, but also to actively support them. Regarding vaccines and medical assistance, they are available, but as I mentioned, the most important thing at the moment is to ensure that it reaches those who are still stranded in flooded areas in Kherson.

What is the situation like currently, two weeks after the collapse of the Kakhovka dam? What is the water level like now?

The water level is decreasing, but some communities are currently inaccessible, not only in the Kherson area but also in the Mykolaiv regions as well. Local volunteers are making efforts to transport these people by boats to healthcare facilities and to ensure that they can access vital humanitarian aid. It is anticipated that this flood will affect more than 80 settlements and cause irreparable damage to critical civilian infrastructure. These areas will need complete reconstruction before residents can return to their homes. Due to the flood, over 120 educational institutions are at risk. The close proximity of these communities to the front line and ongoing military operations will pose significant challenges in waste removal and infrastructure restoration.

The flood has caused significant damage to residential buildings. It is expected that the floodwater depth, averaging over 3 metres, will cause significant damage to more than 4,300 homes. Currently, it has been confirmed that over 200 homes have been destroyed, but it is likely that this number will significantly increase once the water recedes and access to the affected areas is ensured. Given the circumstances of the evacuation, it can be expected that many people have been left without documents, which can be crucial for accessing services.

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