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Water and sanitation in emergencies

Earthquake victims bathe their children in Indonesia
Earthquake victims bathe their children after receiving hygiene kits in Indonesia

The Issues

During emergencies, water supplies are disrupted and most likely contaminated while sanitation facilities are damaged or destroyed. Unless water and sanitation services are quickly restored, outbreaks of water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea can cause more deaths, particularly among children.

  • Natural disasters. Our region suffers more natural disasters than any other region in the world. Global warming, urbanization and environmental degradation are contributing to more frequent and sometimes more damaging natural disasters.
  • Other emergencies. Our region continues to grapple with civil conflicts, entrenched poverty and sectarian violence that result in the displacement of people and thus the creation of temporary camps. Disease outbreaks also underscore the importance of safe water and sanitation.

Water tanker delivering clean water in Indonesia
Water tanker delivering clean water to IDP camps for tsunami-affected families in Indonesia

UNICEF in Action

UNICEF is committed to providing safe water and adequate sanitation within 72 hours of the onset of an emergency. UNICEF facilitates the coordination of UN and NGO efforts. Other water and sanitation interventions in emergencies include:

  • Building toilets for camps and tent schools;
  • Supplying hygiene kits with water containers, toiletries, purification tablets and soap;
  • Cleaning and rehabilitating wells;
  • Supporting hygiene education in schools and camps;
  • Conducting sanitation and clean-up drives in affected areas;
  • Supplying water tanks and safe drinking water; and
  • Rebuilding damaged water systems.

With emergencies, particularly natural disasters, expected to become more frequent, UNICEF is increasingly allocating resources for emergency preparedness and response. This includes improving rapid deployment of technical expertise, training, better emergency supplies and ensuring performance standards with all emergency partners.



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