On this Europe Day, we celebrate Ukraine News

9 May, 2022

Cowater International has had an active presence in Ukraine since 2003, initially supporting the strengthening of the NGO sector with European Commission funding. Our ongoing work covers support to the Ukraine Recovery Programme (URP), financed by the European Investment Bank. Before the start of the Russian invasion, URP had been financing investments in municipal and social infrastructure to alleviate the impact of the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Moreover, URP was also supporting investments in schools, hospitals and housing facilities to improve the quality and accessibility of key public services burdened by the influx of internally displaced persons (IDPs) who were fleeing to safety.

URP’s initial geographic focus covered the conflict-affected oblasts (regions) of Donetsk and Luhansk, under the control of the Ukrainian Government, as well as the surrounding oblasts of Dnipropetrovsk, Kharkiv, Kherson and Zaporizhia. In addition to these key regions, the Programme provided assistance to local councils in other parts of the country hosting large numbers of IDPs, in areas such as renovation of schools, hospitals, housing facilities, access to water and sanitation, rehabilitation of roads and bridges, and investments in energy efficiency.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine on February 24, 2022, put URP’s implementation on halt. Most of our project team members took refuge outside of Kyiv. Two colleagues remained in Kyiv to be close to their families. At Cowater International we set up security and communication protocols to keep track of people’s locations and ensure their safety. We were able to relocate some of our staff’s families to Brussels and the Netherlands.

The war was a shocking moment for all of us working on Ukraine. Stories of our team members taking refuge in the Kyiv metro, the constant sound of sirens, people sheltering in cold basements and cellars was painful to comprehend in modern-day Europe. Every year, May 9th, marks the celebration of peace and unity on the European continent. In 2022, this reality was altered by the sounds of missiles falling on Ukraine’s cities and the pain of human stories that touched an entire world.

”Our project team members were shocked by the invasion and the events throughout Ukraine”, said David Hardman, URP Team Leader. ”But they remain determined to restart operations to rebuild Ukraine, and support the municipalities, the ministry officials and EIB, to speed-up the implementation and provide help to returning refugees”.

The European Investment Bank and Cowater International reacted to the escalating war with a sense of urgency. We were not able to operate in our project areas, but there were things we could do to continue supporting Ukraine and its people. In consultation with the Ukrainian Government, we deployed immediate assistance to support Ukrainians fleeing their homes. We are finalizing an assessment of the damage to infrastructure and identified facilities that could be rehabilitated. We are now looking at building new schools and hospitals. Our project staff are on the ground. They are driven by an immense sense of purpose and courage and are fully committed to helping their country get back on its feet.

“This situation is very painful for me,” said Myriam Pinot-Bernard, Senior Project Director, Cowater International Belgium. “I know some of my Ukrainian colleagues for many years, I know their kids, I know their families. We could never have imagined war on our continent and the little we can do now is show solidarity with our Ukrainian colleagues and help them and their children live a “normal” life.”

The European Investment Bank is committed to continue supporting Ukraine through the URP project and plans to inject an additional 51 million Euros to help shelter Ukrainian IDPs and repair vital infrastructure – water, sanitation, electricity, and heating.

On this Europe Day, as a devastating war ravages the towns and villages of Ukraine, in places familiar to many of us, we are reminded that the hope for peace and prosperity on the European continent is alive in the courage and resilience of millions of Ukrainians. On this Europe Day, we celebrate Ukraine!

Photo credit: Polina Rytova

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