About 700,000 children in Donetsk and Luhansk are in danger of the potential failure of the heating systems during the winter months, said United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) today adding that conflict in the region has heavily damaged the interlinked water, heating and electricity service.


In Ukraine and Donbass, where temperatures in the winter drops to -20°C to -30°C, five million people are completely dependent on two severely damaged centralized water systems, said William Fellows, Head of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Section, UNICEF Office in Ukraine, at the regular bi-weekly press briefing in Geneva.


He stressed the urgency of the repairs to be completed before winter sets in as there is a real concern that water in the system would freeze and burst the pipes, causing further damage and the failure of the interlinked heating, water and electricity systems.


Mr. Fellows said that although some of the damage was repaired by UNICEF and its partners after managing to get access to certain areas, the repair of remaining parts was hampered by lack of access and the existence of minefields.


UNICEF called for humanitarian access, the removal of mines, and the urgent repair of the infrastructure in order to minimize the risks to lives, especially of children.


Responding to a question, Mr. Fellows said that “since the mines were placed by both parties of the conflict; the de-facto authorities and the Government, both have the capacities to determine the areas fairly quickly.


Although UNICEF does not have the maps of the minefield, it does have detailed maps of where the repairs were needed in the supply system, which were shared with the parties to the conflict and with the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Mr. Fellows concluded.


UN News Centre