CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD)- As the Russian invasion of Ukraine continues, a Charleston-based nonprofit has sent a crew to neighboring countries to assist with refugee efforts.

Water Mission, a Christian engineering organization, has sent a team of five responders to assess the safe water, sanitation, and hygiene needs of thousands of Ukrainians fleeing the country.

“We anticipate a drastic increase in displaced people seeking safety from the ongoing conflict,” Water Mission CEO George Greene said.

Women and children fleeing the crisis in Ukraine wait in a 14-mile queue in the bitter cold seeking refuge in Poland (Water Mission)

The five responders are spread out across Poland, Romania, and Moldova and will work with other humanitarian groups to meet the needs of those impacted by the ongoing conflict.

“We’ve done a lot of work with refugees over the years and it’s a unique skill set that we have in responding to disasters and to displaced people groups,” Greene said.

According to UNICEF, coordinated response efforts during conflicts and disasters are divided into five clusters: Nutrition, Health, WASH (Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene), Child Protection, and Education. Greene said the Water Mission team will be focused on the WASH cluster.

“More than likely you’d see a cluster forming in each of those countries that are responding to the water-related needs, but also coordinating those needs with the larger needs like shelter, food, and medicine,” he said.

Greene emphasized that Water Mission’s responses are customized to the situation and what the specific needs are.

“Our goal is to get safe water flowing,” he said. “As we look at Poland, Romania, and Moldova, essentially what we’re going to be looking at is how can we tap into existing systems.”

Below: Water Mission provides an update on what their rapid response team is seeing on the ground in Otaci in northern Moldova at the Ukraine border (Credit: Water Mission)

Water is one of the most important survival needs, second only to air. Humans can survive up to a week without food, but only three days without water. The influx of people into refugee camps can create serious problems with water quality and expose people to a host of water-borne diseases.

“When that happens people create waste and that doesn’t stop and if you don’t have a way to deal with that, you can turn into some really unhealthy and unsanitary conditions that can then turn into contaminating water supply and water-borne illnesses and outbreaks,” Greene said.

Greene added that providing clean, safe drinking water is at the heart of relief efforts.

“The foundation level thing for stabilizing situations is making sure there’s access to safe water on a sustainable basis and dealing with sanitation-related needs too,” he said.

The Water Mission team is expected to aid in relief, recovery, and rehabilitation efforts related to the Russia-Ukraine conflict as long as needed, according to Greene.

“It’s a unique situation because people have fled their country,” he said. “The ideal situation is that peace is restored and people are going to go back to their homes, but if that doesn’t happen you may have people that never go home and that is a reality.”

Click HERE for more information on Water Mission’s Ukraine response and how to donate to the effort.