The circumstances in which ADRA Ukraine’s Mariupol sub-office work are uniquely challenging. Ukraine has had years of conflict and unrest, and ADRA’s team in the country carry out their mission even as their own safety is at risk.
ADRA Ukraine Mariupol field coordinator Roman Pleshkun shared his experience from a recent delivery of water to two towns, Berdyanskoe and Vodyanoye, that are under constant fire in the country and where there is no access to safe water sources:
“We plan these trips beforehand in close cooperation with the Office of Civil Cooperation (CIMIK) who study the situation and plan the most optimal and safest route for our trips. We check the situation almost every hour. In the evening before the trip and in the morning, starting at 6:00 AM, every two hours we make telephone calls to contact persons regarding the security of the route at that moment. You may ask why we do it so often. The answer is simple: shelling can happen at any moment during the trip despite the plan of CIMIK. It often happens that we have to postpone the trip because the route is unsafe.
“However, something different may happen.
“That day we planned our trip with CIMIK, and we arrived at the warehouse to load the truck at 7:00 AM. Having made a control call at 8:00 AM, we left together with employees of CIMIK.
“We were going to Berdyansk and carrying 1120 six-liter bottles of drinking water. We were stopped by the military close to Berdyansk, at the checkpoint. They were informed beforehand about our trip, but they decided to escort us because of the threat of constant shelling. Thus, our movement was accompanied by a fighting-fit Army truck that was ready to respond to potential shelling.
“This convoy was spread over a distance of about 70 meters (230 feet) traveling at a speed of 120 km/h (75 mph). All staff were dressed in body armor, with distinctive signs of international humanitarian organizations, and we had equipment with ADRA logos. Our staff always distribute the water, but local citizens try to help us.
“Most of the roads were closed or mined. That is why we went through back roads, fields and forests. The roads were awful. It was impossible to deliver water without any damage at such speed. About six or seven bottles of water burst and water began to flow down to the bottom of the truck and to the ground. Upon arrival, during unloading, several women came with basins and started collecting water from under the truck. This water was not good for drinking, but people still stubbornly collected it. I asked local residents why they were collecting it. I received a stunning answer. They said that they did not have enough water even to wash up because this town lacked water.
“On the way to Vodyanoye, CIMIK asked all checkpoints about the situation, but suddenly gunfire and shelling started, and we had to shelter and wait until it ended. This is an example of the unpredictability of our trips.
“When the shelling stopped, we unloaded bottles, distributed water and returned to our office in Mariupol.
“We make such trips two or three times a week. In addition, we are ready to make such trips even more often if there is a need. We forget all hardships of our work when we see happy faces of local people who receive our assistance. We realize that we bring happiness to these people.”
ADRA Ukraine run a water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) program in conflict-affected areas of Eastern Ukraine, with the support of UNICEF. This program has already helped around 200,000 people. The main goals of the program are the reconstruction of existing water systems to restore safe drinking water; distribution of drinking water to the most vulnerable communities in shelling area which lack centralized water systems; and distribution of hygiene kits and hygiene promotion through different activities for adults and children. ADRA Ukraine manage this project from Mariupol and visit the affected communities every day as they try to support them and offer relief.