Over 180 million people living in countries affected by conflicts, violence and instability do not have access to basic drinking water, a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, has revealed.
These include over 3.6 million people in the north-east of Nigeria where the Boko Haram insurgency has damaged about 75 per cent of water and sanitation infrastructure, the report noted.
The report also states that lack of access to clean water is the major cause of malnutrition and cholera among children in the world.
The report, which was released Tuesday, is in commemoration of this year’s World Water Week holding August 27 to September 1.
The theme of the 2017 World Water Week is “Water and Waste – Reduce and Reuse”.
UNICEF’s global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, Sanjay Wijesekera, said “Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege.”
He stressed that in countries beset by violence, displacement, conflict and instability, children’s most basic means of survival – water – must be a priority.
Mr. Wijesekera noted that people living in fragile situations are four times more likely to lack basic drinking water than populations in non-fragile situations,
According to the report, 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.
“In 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.
“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.
“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”, the report states.
The report further revealed that the lack of access to water ruins the health system of children, thereby exposing them to malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera.
“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.
“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 5 million children are estimated to be malnourished this year, with 1.4 million severely so.”