Up to 1.3 million in parched Ukraine face water crisis: UNICEF

By Magdalena Mis LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Up to 1.3 million people in war-torn eastern Ukraine are facing acute water shortages and a serious water crisis due to damaged or destroyed infrastructure, the United Nations children's agency UNICEF said on Tuesday. Many in the Luhansk region have to rely on water trucks or travel to neighboring villages to get water. In Mariupol, a city of 500,000 in the Donetsk region, they rely on water from a "rapidly depleting" reservoir, UNICEF said. "Water is one of the most acute needs of children and adults in eastern Ukraine," Giovanna Barberis, UNICEF representative to Ukraine, said in a statement. "No children and families should have to risk their lives in order to access one of life's basic necessities for survival." With little rain and high temperatures, conditions are becoming increasingly difficult. The risk of waterborne diseases is also rising as people are unable to store and transport water safely, UNICEF said. UNICEF said more humanitarian partners are needed for the emergency water and sanitation response. The agency and its partners have been supplying water to some 550,000 residents in the region since January. Almost 1.4 million people have been displaced within the Ukraine since the conflict between Ukrainian government forces and pro-Russian separatists began in March 2014. More than 5 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance, including 1.7 million children, said UNICEF. The agency said it received only 19 percent of its appeal for $55.8 million to meet urgent the humanitarian needs of children and families in the region this year. (Reporting by Magdalena Mis, Editing by Leslie Gevirtz)