Running out of water in Yemen
YEMEN, 24 March, 2014 - Yemen is one of the most water-stressed countries in the Middle East. Prior to the unrest that swept across Yemen in 2011, surveys showed that approximately 4.5 million children lived in households that had no access to a proper water source, and, that over 5.5 million children had no access to adequate sanitation.
A woman collects water on the outskirts of the Yemeni capital, Sana’a. A man holds a sign to commemorate World Water Day. The sign says “Water is everything”. ©UNICEF/Yemen- 2014/Sayagi
A water survey report, carried out in 2012, suggests that more than half of the Yemeni population does not have access to proper water sources and adequate sanitation. Moreover, 30% of the water supply infrastructures in rural areas do not function, making an already dire situation, worse.
On average, 140 cubic metres of water is available per person per year in Yemen, compared to an average 1,000 cubic metres per person in the Middle East and North Africa region. The country sees only an average of 167 millimetres of rain per year, and there are few reservoirs to collect rainwater. Traditionally, rain water harvesting is carried out only on a small scale. Out of a share of 140 Cubic metres per capita annually, just 7% reaches the population for personal and household use. 93 per cent of water goes to agriculture, and about 60 per cent of that is channeled to the production of Qat.
Children gather at a water collection point in Sana’a, Yemen. On World Water Day a young boy holds a sign that says “Water is the future”. ©UNICEF/Yemen- 2014/Sayagi
Some of the key challenges that contribute to the disastrous situation are; non-functional water supply schemes due to disrupted power supplies, lack of resources in Yemeni communities to pay for repairs, poor understanding of the severity of the water and sanitation situation due to weak representation, and thus, poor investment planning by the Government of Yemen.
As a result, in addition to the half million displaced people due to conflicts, the entire country now faces a water, sanitation and hygiene emergency. There is a hovering threat of outbreaks, such as cholera, and other water borne diseases, which will continue to contribute to morbidity and mortality and also affect the nutrition situation in the country (one of the highest in the world with almost 1 million children acutely malnourished) which is often linked to poor water and sanitation situation.