CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Over two billion people around the world lack access to safe water. That’s roughly one third of the world’s population. After Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the number grew even higher. Charleston Water Mission is working to change that.

“This situation is unlike anything we’ve ever done before. We don’t go into open conflict zones,” said Water Mission’s CEO and President, George Greene IV. He said that typically the organization responds to natural disasters like hurricanes and floods. But he as soon as the invasion began, Greene said he knew the region would be in need of help.

They first went to the border countries like Romania and Poland, setting up refugees with basic needs. The need was greatest, though, in the war-torn cities of Ukraine with over six million people lacking access to safe water.

Within two weeks, Water Mission was on the ground in Ukraine with two priorities in mind: getting people clean water and keeping their team safe.

“We’re very much focused on making sure that nothing happens to our team from a safety perspective. That does create some significant road blocks and put some handcuffs on our ability to run as fast as we would like to. It’s a constantly evolving conversation.”

Despite the risk, crews got straight to work installing water filtration systems. They hope to install around 20 total in the country, each costing between $25,000 and $40,000.

“Typically what you see in disasters is you have this initial relief, which is just get in and help as fast as you can. And then you start to slowly look at incrementally getting back to building long-term resiliency. We’re nowhere near that until hostilities cease,” Greene said.

They know that there is a long road ahead, but Greene said that his team will be there to see it through.