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Polish Humanitarian Action: WASH interventions in Eastern Ukraine

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Given that the conflict in Ukraine has been ongoing for more than four years - without any political decision reached on how to resolve it - its consequences have spread over a wide range of areas, ranging from security and humanitarian to socio-economic and development issues. The crisis in Ukraine deteriorated in the face of a protracted conflict that affected more than 5 million people across the country. As a result, about 1.5 million people have been displaced from their homes and are becoming more and more vulnerable as the conflict continues in eastern Ukraine. Along the ‘contact line’, armed clashes have become a daily routine. Up to 200,000 people living in the 5 km zone along the ‘contact line’ in the government-controlled areas of Ukraine regularly experience injuries or loss of relatives and friends as well as damage to infrastructures, their housings and loss of belongings has a direct result of the shelling.

Polish Humanitarian Action (PAH) has been present in Ukraine since 2014 implementing activities in the Eastern and Central parts of Ukraine. The aid is provided to the most vulnerable categories of the population including older people and single mothers with children. After rapid needs assessments and consultations with WASH cluster partners, it was decided to expand the activities into Luhansk oblast. Thus, a new project “Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene intervention in Luhanska GCA, Eastern Ukraine” started in March 2018 in partnership with arche noVa and will last until August 2018. The programme activities will take place in three raions of Luhansk oblast GCA: Novoaidarskyi, Popasnianskyi, and Stanychno-Luhanskyi raions.

The main goal of the project is to improve the well-being of the conflict-affected population in Eastern Ukraine through sustainable safe sanitation and hygiene practices.

At the initial stage of the project, the needs assessments were conducted by the programme team. 35 facilities were assessed since the beginning of the project (23 educational and 12 health facilities). After the assessments, it was identified that public institutions (schools, hospitals, social care centers, nursing homes etc.) in Luhansk oblast are fully under the state’s care, making them extremely vulnerable. The condition of buildings, communications and supply systems has not been updated since they were built. Most of them are not able to cover their operation and maintenance due to a lack of government funding. State funds are limited and the unstable security situation in the area means that state funds are not allocated to the rehabilitation of the facilities along the contact line.

In some schools in the Stanychno-Luhanskyi, Novoaidarskyi and Popasnianskyi rayons, there is no sewage system in the lavatories and there is still a practice of using lavatories located outdoors, which – especially during the winter – leads to frequent illness cases among the children. Those three raions are located along the ‘contact line’ in Luhansk oblast and the facilities in the rural areas that are within 5-10 km from the contact line suffer from shelling. Those factors make them more vulnerable compared to other locations of Luhansk oblast. As a result, people of high concern living along the contact line have limited access to equipped sanitation facilities due to Sphere standards. The situation is similarly bad in social care centers and psycho-neurological facilities that are mainly visited by the older people who are in need of support. Quite often those centers lack even basic items such as cleaning materials to keep the premises in proper condition.

Additionally, lack of awareness among the population regarding personal hygiene is often combined with lack of access to basic hygiene items, heightening the risk of various diseases spreading. For people living along the contact line, purchasing hygiene items is not a priority as they usually spend most of their funds on food.

The project aims at the following specific objectives:

  1. To improve the conditions of essential sanitation facilities in selected public institutions (schools, hospitals, nursing homes, rural ambulatories and health points, social care centers, psycho-neurological facilities etc.). Thus, at least 10 Institutions for rehabilitation will be selected through prioritization of their needs, in cooperation with regional and local authorities (Department of Education, Department of Health and Department of Social Protection). After the needs assessments, the institutions in the most critical condition will be selected. These will be schools where we will mostly respond to the needs of children. Furthermore, at least 4 of the supported institutions, such as hospitals, psycho-neurological facilities, social care centers etc. will allow to address the needs of the adults and elders. After the identification of the institutions, light to medium repairs of the lavatories will be done. With this activity PAH/AN plan to cover at least 12 750 beneficiaries.

  2. To increase awareness of good personal hygiene practices among schoolchildren, adults and older people through hygiene promotion sessions. To achieve this objective programme staff will conduct hygiene promotion sessions in schools that will be chosen based on the degree of criticality of needs (absence of state funding and bad road conditions, which do not allow state actors to deliver materials for repairs, absence of human resources in pre-selected institutions (that was caused by the ongoing conflict) and principals of the schools requests. Pupils of such schools are usually not aware of the basic rules of personal hygiene, which in the future might lead to low awareness from the majority of the population. Training for teachers and parents will be provided to disseminate information on the hygiene promotion to prepare them for conducting sessions on hygiene promotion on their own. The hygiene promotion sessions among older people will take place in institutions such as nursing homes/hospices, friendly spaces for older people etc. With this activity PAH/AN plans to cover at least 2 250 schoolchildren, 375 adults (teachers and parents), and 1200 older people.

  3. To enhance the ability of beneficiaries to satisfy their basic hygiene needs. To achieve this objective, staff will distribute mini hygiene kits among children and older people after hygiene promotion sessions. At least 750 children and 1200 older people will receive the hygiene kits.