REUTERS/Umit Bektas

Russia-Ukraine international armed conflict: Immense damage to essential infrastructure will cause major suffering as winter looms

The recurrent attacks against essential civilian infrastructure in the context of the Russia-Ukraine international armed conflict are disrupting access to key services, causing major civilian suffering, especially as temperatures have started to drop significantly.
News release 02 November 2022 Ukraine Russia

Hostilities have had an outsized effect on essential infrastructure, including power and water supply systems which have sustained heavy damage in recent weeks.

The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has been taking urgent action in coordination with local authorities in areas affected by the fighting to repair damaged infrastructure and provide materials for people to make essential home repairs. But the needs are massive.

“As winter closes in, people are going to struggle to meet their basic needs like having clean drinking water and staying warm. Targeting civilian infrastructure puts civilian lives in peril and is prohibited by international humanitarian law,” said Guislain Defurne, ICRC’s head of operations in Ukraine. “Our teams will continue to support affected communities and local authorities with whom we’ve been working closely for years.”

In addition to its work to repair key infrastructure, the ICRC – in partnership with the Ukrainian Red Cross Society and in coordination with the authorities - also provided more than 63 million Swiss francs in financial support to over 330,000 particularly vulnerable people living in areas directly affected by hostilities.

People living in those areas are sharing major concerns as power cuts and frigid temperatures become the norm, a particularly perilous situation for vulnerable civilians like the elderly, the injured, children and people with disabilities.

“I am very worried about those who have been left homeless. A friend’s house was heavily damaged. Doors and windows were smashed, as were the roof and the ceiling. Winter is around the corner and there is no gas, no light, no water. You can imagine what it’s like,” said Tetiana, a resident of Shevchenkove, a small town in the Kharkiv region in the north of Ukraine.

The ICRC has been working on electricity and water rehabilitation projects since 2014 and has scaled up its activities for the people affected by the international armed conflict over the past eight months, including support to 27 water boards in major urban areas like Kyiv, Chernihiv, Zaporizhzhia, Donetsk and Luhansk.

Rehabilitation of essential infrastructure and support to civilians are key components of ICRC’s work. Here are some of the key areas of work since February:

  • Provided support to heating systems impacting Borodyinka, Chernihiv, Irpin, Mykolaiv, Kharkiv which helps nearly 1.1 million people stay warm as temperatures drop.
  • Gave 7 generators to the Sumy water board, 2 generators to Kharkiv heating company and 3 generators to Mykolaiv heating company to help keep these systems working. Additionally, 10 power transformers were provided to Mykolaiv power supply company.
  • Distributed emergency water in Donetsk to educational facilities and more than 23 health facilities, and supported Voda Donbasa to sustainably reestablish water provision for the wider population through the donation of equipment and vehicles.
  • Delivering construction materials to support rehabilitation of up to 1,000 houses in the areas of Kharkiv oblast such as Izyum, Kupiansk, Malinivka and others.
  • Provided financial support to replace 14 km of pipes in less than 3 weeks in Irpin, benefiting 210,000 people.
  • Supported the rehabilitation of damaged homes and civilian infrastructure, with construction materials donated to Mykolaiv and Odesa, and building materials provided to families in Tsyrkuny.
  • Distributed emergency construction materials to 5,500 households for temporary rehabilitation of roofs damaged by shelling in the Donetsk region.
  • Provided drinking water in Mykolaiv with the Ukrainian Red Cross.
  • Provided nearly 63 million Swiss francs in financial support to over 330,000 people to meet the needs of their household.


For more information:

Jennifer Sparks, ICRC Geneva (English), +41792173200
Achille Després, ICRC Kyiv (English, French, Italian) +380 50 324 31 80,
Galina Balzamova, ICRC Moscow (English, Russian) +7 903 545 35 34,