WORLD: Catholic priest in Ukraine speaks of humanitarian disaster after Kakhova Dam breach

The breach of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine is causing widespread flooding in populated areas downstream, including in the city of Kherson. Ukrainian authorities, assisted by volunteers from the Ukrainian Red Cross, have been evacuating thousands of people from the affected areas on the west bank of the river Dnipro.

The huge Kakhovka reservoir provided clean water to at least 700,000 people in southern Ukraine, according to the UN, and the Ukrainian government has said that hundreds of thousands are now without drinking water. The reservoir also provides irrigation for large areas of agricultural land.

Seven DEC charities are using DEC funds from the Ukraine Humanitarian Appeal in the area and several are responding directly or through local partners, including by helping with the evacuation and by receiving evacuees in Mykolaiv and Odesa.

Father Vitaliy Novak, CEO of Depaul Ukraine, a local partner of DEC charities CAFOD and Plan International said: “Our team in Odesa has been inundated with calls from people urgently needing accommodation. Since the first day of the war, Depaul Ukraine has worked day-in-day-out to help displaced people with emergency shelter, food and medical supplies – this will be no different.”

Since the start of the war Father Novak has driven more than 100,000 miles all across his war-torn country trying to help as many people as possible whose lives have been turned upside down by Russia’s brutal invasion.

Giuliano Stochino Weiss, Ukraine Rapid Response Coordinator for DEC charity International Rescue Committee, said: “The humanitarian fallout of Ukraine’s dam explosion is taking a heavy toll on 16,000 people directly affected by the flooding. We are deeply concerned about thousands of civilians who are likely to lose access to drinking water, and potential mass displacement fuelled by the breach. For the IRC and other humanitarian actors, the main priority right now is maintaining unfettered access to those in need of assistance.

“As the evacuations continue, we are expecting that countless people who have remained in the rural areas of Kherson to date and already suffered a year of intense hostilities, or who have recently returned to the region, will be forced out of their homes.

“The IRC is gearing up to respond in Kherson City, currently at the frontline of evacuations, and further on in Mykolaiv, Zaporizhzhia, Dnipro and Odesa. We are deploying a rapid needs assessment team to determine how to best address the needs of affected communities over the next few weeks, focusing on protection and legal aid.”