Aiding water sector repairs, the European Union and UNICEF maintain water flowing to families
Considering Lebanon’s economic crisis has hindered the country’s water establishments from conducting costly repairs and maintenance, UNICEF with EU funds has enabled additional water delivery to families
In the middle of summer, not having running water to the house is a nightmare situation for families such as Noura’s, who besides having four children of her own, also looks after her three grandchildren.
“It was a disaster without water. We couldn’t wash anything, clean the house. It was horrible,” Noura remembers.
“Even the children couldn’t take a bath, I was helping them wash with a water pitcher, it was terrible.”
Noura’s home was one of more than 1000 households in the Nahr el Mot region, just north of Lebanon’s capital Beirut, which was recently affected by the pump breaking at the nearby borehole.
But with swift action by the Beirut and Mount Lebanon water establishment, the European Union and its implementing partner, UNICEF, the Naher el Mot Borehole was repaired within a week.
Since the economic crisis hit Lebanon in late 2019, the water sector has been badly affected, and in turn, families around the country have been subject to cuts in their water supply.
When houses in Lebanon don’t have access to water, families have to turn to buying trucks of water to fill tanks, which is extremely costly for them considering the inflation in the country.
When the water cut in Nahr el Mot, Noura had to spend 500,000 Lebanese Lira every three days on water.
“When the water was fixed, I was really happy because we can play again and take baths”
Considering the whole area was affected, there was a three-day waiting list to have water trucked in, meaning she had to use drinking water to bathe the children during this time.
“I was barely using water, so I could save water for at least three days,” Noura explains.
The children wanted to play … and I couldn’t explain to them that it was too hot so they couldn’t play because they can’t take a bath.”
The work of four regional water establishments across Lebanon has been hindered due to the local currency depreciating by over 90%, restricting their ability to buy now expensive fuel for generators to make up for the lack of state electricity, as well as parts for constant repairs and maintenance.
The European Union in partnership with UNICEF has been working with the water establishments to address water issues in Lebanon since January 2022, in order to maintain water supplies as much as possible in a country facing an economic crisis.
With EU support, UNICEF has covered the repair and maintenance of 400 water pumping stations and sites and supplied more than 76 tons of chlorine and ferric chloride, resulting in the delivery of at least an additional average of 1 hour of water per day, reaching around 500,000 people every month.
Engineer Antoine el Zoghbi from the Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment (BMLWE) is glad to now be able to keep water flowing to families.
“Thanks to this project and the funds from the EU the water sector was able to stand, survive and thrive,” el Zoghbi says.
“We were also able to treat water, using chlorine procured under this project.”
There is consistent cooperation between the water establishment and UNICEF field monitoring teams in order to coordinate all the repairs and maintenance.
Engineer Rana El Hage is part of the crucial UNICEF field monitoring team working with BMLWE.
“Whenever there are repairs being done, we have to be on the ground to monitor and see that everything is going smoothly,” El Hage says.
“I was very sad to open the tap and not find water to wash my hands”
Young Noura, 7, expressed that she couldn’t do anything when there was no water, including washing her hands, brushing her teeth, or even play because of the heat.
“I was sitting and doing nothing but now I can enjoy my time again,” she says happily.
“When the water was fixed, I was really happy because we can play again and take baths.”
Nine-year-old Ali feels the same way; “I was very sad to open the tap and not find water to wash my hands.”
“But when there was water again, I was very happy because I could take as many baths as I want and I can use the hot and cold-water taps.”
Noura is glad to be able to now save the money she was spending on water “because these days you need the money for essential things.”
“When the repair was done and we had water, we all started to dance and do the dabka because the life in the house came back to normal,” Noura says, referring to a traditional Lebanese dance of celebration.