The evacuations from the floods caused by the destruction of Ukraine’s Kakhovka Dam on June 6 have largely ended, but waterborne disease, safe drinking water, damaged infrastructure, and exposed minefields still offer significant challenges for the organizations addressing the disaster, IsraAID communications and translation officer Anna Pantiukhova told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
Twenty-eight settlements had been hit by the flooding. The initial number of evacuees was estimated at 1,800 people. Active evacuation programs by the state emergency services and volunteers have come to a close, said Pantiukhova, but this doesn’t mean that everyone is out of the disaster area.“It turned out there were more people who were willing to stay with their properties rather than evacuate unless they absolutely had to with their houses completely flooded,” said Pantiukhova.There were fewer internally displaced people in the Kherson region than expected, and as the water level receded, they were returning to their homes to pick up the pieces. IsraAID had provided motorized pumps and hoses to help flush out the water, but as they returned, new dangers faced them.
“There is a need for food for many people, because a lot of their stock is underwater and there is obviously a need for stabilizing the situation,” said Pantiukhova. “Some of the aid needs to be delivered by boat.”
Struggles created by contamination
Simple things like buying fish has been fraught since it is feared they may have been caught in contaminated waters. Transportation routes have been made unnavigable, so IsraAID helped channel boats from donors to local beneficiaries to use until the water level decreased sufficiently.“There is a big problem with access to electricity because infrastructure suffered a lot as a part of our response,” said Pantiukhova. “We’re procuring flashlights and power banks to power cell phones, at least for people to stay connected, for them to be able to know when area alerts come on.”Suffering the disaster of the flooding doesn’t mean the residents are exempt from the ongoing disaster of the broader war. Russia has continued to launch artillery, cruise missiles and Iranian-made drones into Ukrainian territory as Kyiv’s offensive continues. Parts of Kherson are under occupation -- so the front line isn’t far. Ukrainian authorities are unable to help flood impacted residents there.Being close to the front already brought with it the danger of landmines, but far from staying in their fields, Pantiukhova said that “now all these mines arrived to where the water flow brought it.”“We cannot deal with demining, but what we can do is we do first-aid training in the region, both for civilians and for the representatives of state emergency services,” said Pantiukhova. “The trainings were scheduled beforehand, but as it turned out, we actually held those trainings at the very point where they were super needed for the people to deal with such simple things as mine danger and first aid in case somebody happens to step on a mine.”
Larger problems posed
As much as too much water had become a problem, it had created the danger of not having enough clean water. The United Nations has estimated that 700,000 people in the region are without access to drinkable water.“We purchased two mobile water treatment stations, which will be shipped to our local partner next week,” said Pantiukhova. “When they get access to any water, they can treat it and convert it into drinkable water. Rather than bringing in bottled water, and bringing in more plastic. We’re bringing in water treatment stations that will help cover at least some of the need and drinkable water in the region.”The danger of not enough drinking water is not just a matter of dehydration, but waterborne diseases that spread in contaminated water.“Very bad things such as cholera are already being found in Odesa,” said Pantiukhova. The disease had spread in other locations due to the water flow. “Another expected problem is botulism, for instance.”Such diseases are not something that can be treated at home, and can be deadly without professional healthcare.“That’s why our initial response was sanitation items,” Pantiukhova explained. “We’re purchasing a special pill that you dissolve in water. It dissolves in water for some time after that, turning this water into usable. It’s not perfect for drinking, but at least you won’t get cholera.”