Geneva/Kiev (ICRC) - The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has announced it will step in to pay electricity bills, on an emergency basis, to avoid water being cut off to 600,000 people in eastern Ukraine. This exceptional move will help people living on both sides of the contact line in the Lugansk region.
"We've taken this unprecedented step in order to avert a potentially dire humanitarian problem," said the head of the ICRC in Ukraine, Alain Aeschlimann.
"It's a stop-gap measure, not a sustainable solution. It buys more time. Only a political solution can resolve this issue. If nothing is done, people living in the affected area will have to face the region's very harsh winter with no heating or water," said Mr Aeschlimann.
For over a week, water stations located in the government-controlled area of the Lugansk region have had no electricity supply as a result of unpaid bills and, as a result, have stopped functioning. Maintaining water supplies to hospitals, schools, orphanages and social institutions is vital.
The ICRC raised its concern to all those involved in negotiations on the issue to find ways to pay for the water provided by installations located in government-controlled areas and supplied to non-government-controlled areas. It also expressed its readiness to act as a neutral intermediary for fixing technical issues.
Of particular concern is the knock-on damage that this situation could cause to the whole heating system. Pipes could freeze and crack with no hot water running through them. People may be led to rely on electric heating systems which risk overloading the electricity network.
For over a year, the ICRC has been involved in the rehabilitation of pipelines crossing the front line and supplying the chemicals needed to provide clean drinking water. In non-government-controlled areas of the Lugansk region, the ICRC has provided submersible pumps to the local administration to rehabilitate damaged infrastructure.
For further information, please contact:
Alina Murzaeva, ICRC Kiev, tel: +380 067 509 42 06
Jenny Tobias, ICRC Geneva, tel +41 79 536 92 48