April 13 (UPI) — Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has left millions of people at risk of losing access to their water supply, the United Nations Children’s Fund said Wednesday.
UNICEF said that 1.4 million people in eastern Ukraine are without access to piped water as a result of the conflict while another 4.6 million people throughout the country face the risk of losing their water supply.
“Water is essential for life and a right for everyone,” Osnat Lubrani, U.N. resident coordinator in Ukraine, said. “The health risks, particularly for children and the elderly, caused by water stoppages are severe, as people are forced to use dirty water sources, resulting in diarrhea and other deadly infectious diseases.”
Residents in the city of Mariupol, which has been under siege for weeks due to its strategic location, have been forced to use dirty water sources, while cities in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions have also been cut off from water supplies.
Another 340,000 people are at risk of losing water supply if a reservoir in Horlivka runs dry, UNICEF said.
At least 20 incidents of damage to water infrastructure have been recorded in eastern Ukraine and widespread use of explosive weapons in populated areas further threatens to collapse the water network which has already been weakened by years of less severe conflict.
Power cuts have also shut off water pumps, with explosion-related damage to pipelines disrupting the flow of water.
At least four water technicians have been injured in Chernihiv along with another in Karkhiv since the start of the conflict, according to the Global Water Sanitation and Hygiene Cluster, a group dedicated to improving coordination and humanitarian response in the water, sanitation and hygiene sector.
In response to the situation in Ukraine, the WASH Cluster has provided generators and equipment to repair damaged infrastructure to power water pumps, gathered 54.7 tons of liquefied chlorine to purify water in the Kharkiv Vodokanal water system and provided safe drinking supplies to more than 184,500 people in locations such as Donetsk, Kharkiv, Luhansk, Sumy and Zakarpattia.