Running Dry

The impact of water scarcity on children in the Middle East and North Africa

Sara Fawzi, 14 years old, a child of a displaced family in the IDP camp in Ibb, Yemen, washes the dishes after the water became available thanks to the rehabilitation of the well with UNICEF support in 2021.


Water challenges in the Middle East and North Africa existed for thousands of years. However, the scale and impact of the crisis today is unprecedented. The very survival of children is at stake, with around 41 million people in the region lacking access basic services and 66 million people lacking basic sanitation services leading to more disease and fragility.

Water scarcity hits agriculture, causing food insecurity as well as driving conflict, displacement and migration across the region. Rising food demand, urbanisation, poor water management as well as climate change have combined to threaten children, the poor and the marginalised.

The world is witnessing serious downturns caused by the COVID-19 pandemic in advanced economies. The impact in low-income and conflict-hit countries is however much higher. COVID-19 and other pathogens can proliferate in inadequate water and sanitation systems. Safe and reliable water is urgently needed.

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English, Arabic