UNITED NATIONS, Aug 29 (APP): More than 180 million people in countries
affected by conflict and instability do not have access to safe water, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) on Tuesday.
“Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in
conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege” Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, said in a
statement, as World Water Week gets underway.
UNICEF said that in Yemen, a country reeling from the impact of over
two years of conflict, water supply networks that serve the country’s largest cities are at imminent risk of collapse due to war-inflicted
damage and disrepair. Around 15 million people in the country have been
cut off from regular access to water and sanitation.
As for Syria, where the conflict is well into its seventh year,
around 15 million people are in need of safe water, including an
estimated 6.4 million children, the agency said. Water has frequently
been used as a weapon of war: In 2016 alone, there were at least 30 deliberate water cuts – including in Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Raqqa and
Dara, with pumps destroyed and water sources contaminated.
In conflict-affected areas in northeast Nigeria, 75 per cent of water
and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, leaving 3.6 million people without even basic water services. The UN agency adds
that in South Sudan, where fighting has raged for over three years,
almost half the water points across the country have been damaged or completely destroyed.
“In far too many cases, water and sanitation systems have been
attacked, damaged or left in disrepair to the point of collapse. When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left
in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow,” Wijesekera said.
In Yemen, for example, children make up more than 53 per cent of the
over half a million cases of suspected cholera and acute watery diarrhoea reported so far. Somalia is suffering from the largest outbreak of
cholera in the last five years, with nearly 77,000 cases of suspected cholera/acute watery diarrhoea. And in South Sudan, the cholera outbreak
is the most severe the country has ever experienced, with more than
19,000 cases since June 2016, UNICEF said.
In famine-threatened north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and
Yemen, nearly 30 million people, including 14.6 million children, are
in urgent need of safe water.
More than five million children are estimated to be malnourished this
year, with 1.4 million severely so.