Ukraine: DEC charities respond to humanitarian fallout after Kakhovka dam breach

The breach of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine caused widespread flooding in populated areas downstream, including in the city of Kherson. Ukrainian authorities, assisted by volunteers from the Ukrainian Red Cross, have evacuated 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 working either directly or through local partners to help people affected by the flooding, including search and rescue operations, providing food and clean water and by receiving evacuees in Mykolaiv, Odesa and other cities. 

For example, one DEC charity set up a mobile kitchen, serving 600 meals a day, while a local partner is opening emergency accommodation centres for up to 200 people. Several charities are also giving direct cash payments to people displaced by the flooding to help them meet their individual needs.

At least one DEC charity is also working to help people on the non-government controlled east bank of the river, where many properties have also been submerged, although access remains very difficult due to the conflict.

Sky News' Alex Crawford reports on the situation in Kherson on 7 June:

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.”

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 [on the west bank]. 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."

Information updated on 12 June 2023.