Russia-Ukraine War Updates: 2 killed by Russian shelling in Kherson

Ukrainian authorities and the country’s charities have a strong track record of managing crises, and their hard-learned skills – sometimes absent in disaster-stricken countries – can already be seen in the response to the destruction of a dam on the Dnipro River, humanitarian leaders say.

The state emergency service, which said it had rescued about 2,000 people from the immediate flood zone, has responded to thousands of Russian missile strikes since Moscow launched its full-scale offensive 15 months ago. He has rescued civilians, put out fires and helped evacuate people.

Then there is the network of volunteer groups that have grown rapidly since the invasion, with many seeking to express solidarity with the war effort.

It’s not just people who have proven resilient.

Ukraine’s transport infrastructure has also been engaged during the conflict, despite several direct attacks – and transport can be a critical factor in any disaster response. When the Nova Kakhovka dam breached on Tuesday, the government managed to evacuate people from flooded areas by rail to the city of Mykolaiv.

“Local civil society, the authorities, the private sector – these things are underestimated in a crisis,” said Jan Egeland, secretary general of the Norwegian Refugee Council and former United Nations humanitarian coordinator. “They are the first on the scene.”

Ukraine, Mr. Egeland said, has “more logistics, more trained personnel and more available in the market” for aid work.

On Thursday, the country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, called for a major global response to the destruction of the dam, which sent water from the reservoir flowing downstream. To date, the United Nations has distributed more than 100,000 bottles of water and provided food aid to 18,000 people and cash aid to 3,500 people, according to Jens Lark, spokesperson for its Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.

Evacuating flood zones and providing clean water is one of the most important needs, but the task is complex. Russian forces on the eastern bank of the Dnipro are still shelling areas under Ukrainian control. And there has also been reluctance on the part of some residents, who have endured months of occupation and subsequent months under attack, to leave.

Selena Kozakijevic, Ukraine area manager for CARE, an international aid organization, said many of the people living along the river were elderly and suffering from ill health and disabilities.

“Many people are still refusing to leave their homes, even though they have been flooded,” she said. “This is a population that has been there since the beginning of the conflict.”

Even after the floods recede, those who choose to stay may face other hazards for months or years, including polluted water and land mines that have moved from their original positions.

Ukrainian aid groups, as well as most international humanitarian organizations working in Ukraine, work primarily with citizens who have the advantage of speaking the language, understanding the country, and often intimately knowing the affected area.

Immediate Ukrainian responders, however, often face the added challenge of being caught up in the disaster they are responding to.

Even the best-prepared countries often struggle to manage major disasters alone, Mr. Egeland said. He cited Turkey as an example of a country with a strong emergency preparedness sector that was hard-pressed to cope with the aftermath of an earthquake in February that killed nearly 60,000 people.

A lot comes for money.

Disaster-stricken countries need financial assistance to deal with the immediate crisis and then to provide long-term support. In this regard, the international visibility that the war in Ukraine has already brought has made it easier for aid groups to raise funds.

To draw attention to other crises that have driven large numbers of people from their homes, the Norwegian Refugee Council last week published a list of the world’s 10 most neglected displacement crises. All 10 countries were from Africa or Latin America, with Burkina Faso topping the list.

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