UNICEF project keeps Lebanon’s water flowing
The European Union, in partnership with UNICEF, are working with the country’s water establishments to effectively address water issues and maintain supplies during these challenging times in Lebanon
Lebanon’s deep financial crisis continues to impact every sector of daily life. Critical shortages of funding, fuel and supplies have affected water pumping, restricting people’s access to water. The European Union, in partnership with UNICEF, are working with the country’s water establishments to effectively address water issues and maintain supplies during these challenging times in Lebanon.
Starting January 2022, through the generous support of the European Union, UNICEF covered the repair and maintenance of 70 water pumping stations. This sustained the delivery of around two hours of water per day, reaching around 458,000 beneficiaries every month.
Ibtisam moved from Choueifat, southeast Beirut, to rural Mazraat el Chouf in Mount Lebanon to escape the high costs of living in Lebanon’s capital. She is one of the thousands in the small town to have benefited from UNICEF’s European Union-funded intervention supporting the region’s Beirut and Mount Lebanon Water Establishment (BMLWE).
“Until now, we’ve always had an unreliable water supply here,” says Ibtisam. “I had to buy water every week – including summer and winter – to give my family a normal life.”
“I soon found that all the money I saved by moving here I spent paying private companies for water – and still we didn’t have enough to wash our fruit and vegetables, wash our clothes or even wash ourselves,” she says.
The partnership has meant European Union funding now enables efficient repairs at pumping stations, and provides support to the water establishments with necessary consumables including chlorine and fittings to fix water networks leakages.
Many people have moved from Beirut and other cities, which has increased demand in the country’s small towns and placed an unsustainable strain on their already overstretched resources. Yehya Abu Karoum is Mayor of Mazraat el Chouf. “Our town suffers from water shortages in the same way as most of Lebanon.”
“On top of this,” the mayor says, “numerous faults and a rise in urgent repairs have added to the shortages. Even when we have water in the town’s tanks, the lack of state-generated electricity and diesel availability to fuel the private pumps’ generators has become a huge problem.”
Younes Jermani, Head of the Water distribution department in Aley at the BMLWE, echoes the mayor’s views. “The lack of electricity, our inability to perform the routine maintenance, and low wages have all worsened the situation. With the dollar crisis, the scale of our problems has widened.”
Alaa Abou Karoum operates BMLWE’s Mazraat el Chouf pumping station. “The challenges here mirror those across Lebanon. The currency crisis has driven maintenance costs to an unaffordable level, meaning we cannot keep up with repairs.
The partnership, funded by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF within its WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) programme, enables all four regional water establishments, heavily affected by the Lebanese financial crisis, to continue operating and maintaining infrastructure to benefit thousands of families. The project aims to empower water establishments to effectively address water issues and to sustain as far as possible the water services to the Lebanese population and Syrian refugee communities during such a difficult period.
Ibtisam’s granddaughter is ten years old. “Karen used to watch me boiling water in the kettle so she could bathe. There were many times we could not wash her school clothes.” says Ibtisam. Following UNICEF’s European Union-funded WASH support, today, their home in Mazraat el Chouf has sustainable running water.
“Karen lived in Beirut and is used to living with water and always being clean. She never understood why, until now, we didn’t live the same way here.”
This story was produced with the financial support of the European Union.
Its contents are the sole responsibility of UNICEF and do not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.