On July 11, 2022, representatives from the City of Yokohama, Japan met with city officials from Odesa, Ukraine in Poland to deliver 33 mobile water purifiers to Ukraine in an effort to ensure clean drinking water remains available for Odesa citizens.
In the face of the ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine, there have been concerns from the city of Odesa that attacks from Russian forces posed a risk of interrupting or disabling the current equipment that provides clean drinking water for the city’s nearly one million residents.
Yokohama and Odesa share a sister city relationship, and in a meeting between Odesa mayor Hennadiy Trukhanov and Yokohama mayor Takeharu Yamanaka on May 13, Mayor Trukhanov expressed this concern to Yamanaka, who promised to assist.
In response, Yokohama initiated an emergency response effort to deliver water purification systems to Odesa, ultimately sourcing 33 portable industrial-size water purifiers (including 11 devices donated by JFE Engineering), 31 generators, and 31 extension cords. In total, these water purifiers will be able to secure clean drinking water for approximately 100,000 people per day.
All of these supplies were then delivered with the assistance of JICA (Japan International Cooperation Agency) to the city of Rzeszów in Poland, approximately 60 miles (or 100km) from the border to Ukraine. Since the Russian invasion began, the small town of Rzeszów has served as a hub for countries around the world looking to send supplies, weapons, and other aid into Ukraine.
Ken Akaoka, Director General of the Yokohama City International Affairs Bureau Global Network and head of its New York Office, met with Odesa Deputy Mayors Sergiy Tetyukhin and Dmytro Zheman at the Grand Hotel Boutique in Rzeszów, Poland on July 11 to hand over the equipment and discuss the current situation in Ukraine. Also present at the meeting were Kuninori Matsuda, Japanese Ambassador to Ukraine, Takehiro Kuribayashi from Yokohama’s Frankfurt Office, and a representative from JICA.
After the official handover meeting, the representatives from Yokohama visited customs clearance at the Poland-Ukraine border to study the transportation route the equipment would take into Ukraine to reach Odesa. They were informed that its currently taking 16 hours for trucks to clear customs (although sources said this time can vary greatly day to day) resulting in a long line of trucks at the border crossing.
On the Polish side of the border, there were booths set up by international organizations providing information and support for refugees from Ukraine. Director General Akaoka noted that while there are still evacuees (mostly women and children) staying near the border, it seemed that many had already returned to Ukraine.
Summarizing the meeting, Deputy Mayor Tetyukhin commented, saying that water is an essential resource, and that Odesa is very happy and grateful to have such strong support and close friendship in Yokohama. He also stated that he looks forward to the cooperation of partners like Yokohama when it comes time to sustainably rebuild and reconstruct after the war.
“I believe that this donation of mobile water purifiers is—even looking at the ongoing 60 year history of support and exchange of a sister city relationship—a particularly strong marker of the friendship and good will between our two cities,” said Director General Akaoka. “This is the first time that a Japanese local government has provided this type of infrastructural support, and Yokohama will continue to seek ways to help in the future.”