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Clean drinking water and COVID-19: Swiss aid convoy reaches conflict zone in eastern Ukraine

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Ukraine
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Govt. Switzerland
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The COVID-19 pandemic is also having an impact on the aid Switzerland provides to those suffering in the conflict zone in eastern Ukraine. For the first time, a large part of the aid convoy is made up of medical supplies to help overcome the COVID crisis. On 15 October 2020, the twelfth convoy organised by Swiss Humanitarian Aid, comprising 19 trucks, reached the Donetsk region.

The pandemic is continuing to restrict people’s movements in the war-torn region of eastern Ukraine and make life difficult on both sides of the contact line. There are still shortages of key goods, such as chemicals and equipment to provide clean drinking water as well as personal protective equipment and medical supplies. On 15 October, the twelfth aid convoy organised by Swiss Humanitarian Aid (SHA) crossed the contact line and arrived in the city of Donetsk. The supplies are destined for both sides of the contact line in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions.

The convoy started in Mariupol on the Black Sea and is made up of 19 trucks which contain 300 tonnes of aluminium sulphate and 15 electrolysis machines. These are able to produce enough hyperchloride, which is a substitute for the chlorine previously used, to disinfect water for approximately 500,000 people. Around four million people on both sides of the contact line rely on the drinking water produced by the Voda Donbasu water utility and its auxiliary plants. Switzerland has provided considerable assistance to the utility since 2015.

Three of the trucks contain medical supplies and equipment destined for nine hospitals located on both sides of the contact line. This is the first aid convoy to provide supplies to be used in combating the COVID-19 pandemic, such as protective wear, 46,000 test kits, masks and contactless thermometers. There is a real need for these supplies, particularly in hospitals; around twenty per cent of those infected with COVID-19 in eastern Ukraine are medical workers.

The overall cost of the aid convoy is 3.5 million francs and it is being monitored by four staff from Swiss Humanitarian Aid and its pool of specialists (SHA). The twelfth convoy was particularly difficult to organise because only one crossing point is open due to the quarantine measures in place in the region and the widespread steppe fires.

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