Ukraine: Switzerland sends another aid convoy to conflict region

Bern, 26.10.2015 - Two further Swiss Humanitarian Aid (HA) convoys have brought goods to supply suffering population on both sides of the contact line in eastern Ukraine. The aid consists mainly of chemicals and apparatus for the production of chlorine, essential for providing clean drinking water. In addition, two hospitals in Donetsk have been supplied with medicines. A total of 505 tonnes of aid worth around CHF 1 million has been delivered.

One convoy of 20 trucks carrying 293 tonnes of goods reached the city of Donetsk on 26 October. Among the transported goods were aluminium sulphate and chlorine, destined for the Donbas waterworks, and reagents and cancer medicines for two hospitals. The convoy set out from Dnipropetrovsk on 24 October. On the first day it headed south to Mariupol on the Sea of Asov, and then continued north-east over the contact line at Volnovakha to Donetsk.

Five further trucks joined the convoy as far as Mariupol, where 100 tonnes of chemical water treatment products were unloaded.  Previously a convoy of six trucks carrying 112 tonnes of water treatment chemicals reached the city of Krasnoarmiisk on the government-controlled side of the contact line. Swiss Humanitarian Aid also delivered four WATA chlorine-production systems which will allow the local authorities to produce chlorine solution locally and sustainably to treat water for 20,000 people in four districts.

Discussions were held with government offices in Kyiv and with local authorities and partner organisations (UN OCHA, ICRC) before the convoys were sent. Seven members of the HA and the Swiss Humanitarian Aid Unit (SHA) and staff from the Swiss embassy and the cooperation office in Kyiv accompanied and supported the convoys in eastern Ukraine. These deliveries organised by Switzerland and a further 270 tonnes of liquid chlorine provided by the United Nations Children's Fund UNICEF will be used to disinfect drinking water in the Donbas region for the whole of the coming winter on both sides of the contact line.

The latest convoys are the third of their kind. The deliveries of the water treatment chemicals are being made in response to a request for aid by the Kalinin hospital in Donetsk. In an assessment mission in March of this year, the hospital's director told HA members of the region's huge needs in the health sector. Poor quality drinking water had resulted in a significant rise in cases of hepatitis A. The drinking water had become contaminated with wastewater and because of the conflict, the waterworks in Donetsk, which supplies a very large region on both sides of the contact line, was no longer able to provide water of a safe quality.

Since last spring, the HA has been supplying the Donbas waterworks with water treatment chemicals with the help of SHA specialists. Aluminium sulphate is used to clarify the water. Once it is clear, chlorine is added to remove bacteria and viruses. For large numbers of people in the affected region on both sides of the contact line, this support is currently the only way of accessing clean drinking water. And the support has borne fruit: there has been a significant drop in the number of reported illnesses due to poor water quality. 

Switzerland is the only state to organise humanitarian convoys across the contact line. It was already present in Ukraine before the conflict. The support by the HA, which has been active on both sides of the contact line since the outbreak of the conflict in early 2014, complements the well-established programmes run in Ukraine by the State Secretariat for Economic Affairs (SECO) and the FDFA's Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC) and, since 2015, the Human Security Division (HSD). Swiss Humanitarian Aid initially concentrated its efforts on providing funding and support staff for multilateral organisations (UNHCR, WFP, ICRC) active on both sides of the contact line. In 2015 it began direct operations to help the suffering population, improving drinking water quality and providing hospitals with medical material.  It also helps provide emergency aid to the most needy.

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