Ukrainian officials and the country’s charities have a strong record of handling crises, and their hard-learned skills – sometimes lacking in disaster-stricken countries – have already been used in response to the destruction of a dam on the Dnipro River, humanitarian leaders say.
The state emergency service, which said it had rescued nearly 2,000 people from the immediate flood zone, has responded to thousands of Russian missile attacks since Moscow launched a full-scale invasion 15 months ago. It saved civilians, put out fires and helped evacuate people.
A network of volunteer groups has grown rapidly since the invasion, many wanting to show solidarity with the war effort.
People are not the only ones who are determined.
Ukraine’s transport infrastructure has held up despite several direct attacks during the conflict – and transport is likely to be a key factor in any disaster response. When the Nova Khakovka dam broke on Tuesday, the government was able to evacuate people from the flooded area by train to the city of Mykolaiv.
“Local civil society, the authorities, the private sector – these are undervalued in a crisis,” said Jan Egeland, secretary-general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations humanitarian coordinator. “They’re top of the line right there.”
Ukraine, Mr. Egeland said there is “more logistics, more trained personnel and more volume in the market” for aid work.
On Thursday, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, called for a major global response to the dam’s destruction. To date, the United Nations has distributed more than 100,000 bottles of water and provided food assistance to 18,000 people and cash assistance to 3,500 people, said Jens Lark, spokesman for its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
Conducting evacuations and providing clean water is one of the most important needs in a flood zone, but the task is complicated. Russian forces are still shelling Ukrainian-controlled areas on the east bank of the Dnipro. And some residents, who have been under attack for months following a months-long occupation, have no desire to leave.
Selena Kozakijevic, Ukraine regional manager for international aid organization CARE, said many of those living near the riverbank are elderly and suffer from ill health and disabilities.
“Many still refuse to leave their homes, even though they are flooded,” he said. “This is the population that has been there since the beginning of the conflict.”
Even after the floods recede, other hazards remain for months or years, including contaminated water and landmines drifting from their original positions.
Ukrainian aid groups and most international humanitarian organizations working in Ukraine work primarily with nationals who have the advantage of speaking the language, understanding the country, and often familiarity with the affected area.
However, Ukrainian responders in the immediate vicinity often face the added challenge of being caught up in the disaster they are responding to.
Even the best-prepared countries struggle to manage major disasters alone, Mr. He cited Turkey as an example of a country with a strong emergency preparedness sector that was hard-pressed to cope after the February earthquake that killed 60,000 people.
More money will come.
Disaster-affected countries need financial assistance to overcome the immediate crisis and provide long-term support. In this way, the international visibility that the war has already brought to Ukraine has made it easier for aid groups to raise funds.
In an effort to draw attention to other crises in which large numbers of people have been forced to flee their homes, the Norwegian Refugee Council last week published a list The World’s 10 Most Neglected Migration Crises All 10 countries were in Africa or Latin America, with Burkina Faso topping the list.