Ukrainians face a dark and cold winter that tests their resilience

People warm themselves with fires outside the main railway terminal in Lviv, Ukraine.

Dan Kitwood | Getty Images News | fake images

More than 10 million Ukrainians have fled the country since the start of the war, but many of those who stayed, particularly in the south and east of the country, have already reached the limits of their resilience.

Daily life has become a test of survival for many, with basic needs like water, food and medical supplies dwindling. Russia has also continued to hit the country’s energy infrastructure; Around 10 million people in Ukraine currently have no electricity as a result of Russian attacks on power facilities in recent weeks.

As winter approaches, with fewer daylight hours and temperatures plummeting as low as -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees Fahrenheit), authorities are warning of widespread heat and power shortages.

Power has become particularly scarce, with power usage rationing and daily scheduled (and, lately, unscheduled) blackouts imposed in many parts of the country.

And those blackouts could last for months, according to the chief executive of a power company, who warned late Monday that “the power may be out for a long time.”

“I want everyone to understand: Ukrainians will most likely have to live in a lockdown mode until at least the end of March,” Serhiy Kovalenko, CEO of Ukrainian energy provider Yasno, he said on Facebook on Monday.

Kherson residents collect water at a water point in the city that has been without electricity and water since the Russian withdrawal on November 16, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine.

Paula Bronstein | Getty Images News | fake images

“There are also different forecasts about the development of this situation, and they completely depend on the attacks from Russia,” he said.

The best case scenario is that there are no new attacks on the power grid. There would still be power outages, but only for the short term, allowing power workers to get the grid back on track. However, in the worst case, according to Kovalenko, the network would be “severely damaged.”

“Then it will be necessary to activate not only the stabilization cuts for hours, but also the emergency ones, so there may be no light for a long time,” he added.

Firefighters work to put out a fire at energy infrastructure facilities, damaged by a Russian missile attack, as Russia’s attack on Ukraine continues, in the Kyiv region of Ukraine on November 15, 2022.

State Emergency Service Of Ukraine | via Reuters

Ukraine must be prepared for different eventualities, particularly the worst-case scenario, he said, advising people to stock up on warm clothes and blankets.

“Think about options that will help you weather a long outage. It’s better to do it now than to feel miserable and blame someone later. More to the point, we all know who the culprit really is,” he said.

‘Threat to life’

The World Health Organization has raised concerns about deteriorating living conditions in Ukraine, with the world health agency forecasting that up to three million more people could try to leave the country this winter for warmth and safety.

Dr. Hans Kluge, WHO’s regional director for Europe, warned on Monday that “this winter will be about survival” and “dangerous for the lives of millions of people in Ukraine.”

In a sentence, Kluge said continued attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and healthcare facilities are no longer fully operational and lack fuel, water and electricity to meet basic needs.

The WHO said it had verified 703 attacks “on health” since the war began nine months ago, describing this as “a violation of international humanitarian law and the rules of war.” Russia has long denied attacking civilian infrastructure, despite cases and evidence to the contrary.

Ukrainian emergency workers and volunteers carry an injured pregnant woman from a maternity hospital damaged by shelling in Mariupol, Ukraine, Wednesday, March 9, 2022.

Evgeny Maloletka | access point

“Continued attacks on health and energy infrastructure mean hundreds of hospitals and health care facilities are no longer fully operational: they lack fuel, water and electricity to meet basic needs. Maternity wards need incubators; banks blood cells need refrigerators; intensive care beds need fans; and they all need power,” Kluge said.

The “devastating” energy crisis, as well as a deepening mental health emergency, limitations on humanitarian access and the risk of viral infections will make this winter a formidable test for Ukraine, Kluge added, as well as test the global commitment to support the country. .

“Many will be forced to resort to alternative heating methods such as burning coal or wood or using diesel-powered generators or electric heaters. This carries health risks, including exposure to toxic substances that are harmful to children, the elderly, and people with respiratory and cardiovascular problems. conditions, as well as burns and accidental injuries,” he said.

evacuations

Ukrainian officials in the parts of the country hardest hit by power shortages are warning residents of a harsh winter ahead. Civilians in the newly liberated parts of Kherson in southern Ukraine are being told to move to safer regions for the winter, while the Kyiv mayor has also reluctantly raised the possibility of evacuations.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy noted in his Monday night speech that during the day, “energy workers had to apply not only stabilization shutdowns, but also unscheduled shutdowns. This is due to a level of higher consumption than the country can provide at this time.

Residents talk to staff at the train station as they wait to be evacuated from Kherson on November 21, 2022 in Kherson, Ukraine. The recently vacated city of Kherson is experiencing acute power and water shortages.

Chris McGrath | Getty Images News | fake images

“Of course, energy workers, utility workers, rescuers and everyone involved are working to the fullest. But the systemic damage to our energy sphere from the attacks of Russian terrorists is so significant that all our people and Companies should be very frugal and distribute consumption according to the hours of the day,” he said.

As of Monday night, Zelenskyy said the situation was particularly difficult in the capital Kyiv and the surrounding region, as well as in the Vinnytsia, Sumy, Ternopil, Cherkasy, Odessa regions and some other cities and districts.

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