Water doesn't come from a tap
Four things we need to talk about this #WorldWaterDay
By Rasha Abou Dargham
Picture this: waking up, brushing your teeth, washing your face and getting ready to start your day. Does this sound like part of your usual routine?
Now, picture this: waking up, carrying as many empty barrels as you can and walking for hours to fill them up despite any obstructive weather condition. Does it sound unusual to spend part of your day fetching for a basic need?
It’s not unusual for 2.1 billion people, more than a quarter of the people in the world, who do not have access to safe water.
Here are four things we need to talk about today
1. Water is not a privilege. It is your right.
According to the Convention of Child Rights Article 24, every child has the right to the best possible health which entails access to clean water. Unsafe water increases the risk of contracting diseases threatening the wellbeing and, in many cases, the survival of a child. In times of crises, children are often denied their right of access to safe water which doesn’t only expose them to preventable diseases but also leaves them challenged in accessing safe sanitation means and for girls, in managing menstrual hygiene.
Azam, 9 years, fills his jerry can with safe drinking water for his family in rural Hama, Syria.
2. The Middle East and North Africa is the world’s most water-scarce region
This region is home to 15 out of the 20 of the world’s most water-scarce countries. Due to population growth, unsustainable water management, rapid economic growth, and ongoing conflicts, water scarcity in the region is likely to worsen. While the Middle East and North Africa is home to 6% of the world’s population, it receives only 2% of the world’s renewable fresh water.
12-year-old Ahmad grew up in Za’atari Refugee Camp in Jordan. He has a unique hobby – the engineering behind how the water and wastewater network in the camp works.
3. Water is being used as a weapon of war.
In long-term conflicts, children are on average three times more likely to die from water-related diseases than from violence. Attacks on vital water infrastructure can lead to the collapse of lifesaving water, hygiene, and sanitation systems. In 2017, Yemen witnessed the largest ever cholera/acute watery diarrhea epidemic in modern times which infected more than 1.3 million people of which 30 per cent were under the age of five.
A boy in Alhatab village in Yemen transports jerrycans to collect water near Hodeidah where water is scarce.
4. Water is part of UNICEF’s lifesaving humanitarian response.
Across the region’s conflict-affected countries, UNICEF’s teams are working around the clock to provide safe drinking water, sanitation services, trucking water, setting up latrines and promoting awareness of hygienic habits. UNICEF continues to work with partners to build sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene systems that can withstand emergencies.
“We can’t image our lives without water. It’s really good that we have a water tank next to our tent,” Mujbal and Mutaab, brothers now living in Iraq, who were displaced from Al-Qaim, near the Syrian border.
UNICEF is calling to:
- Stop attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure and personnel;
- Link life-saving humanitarian response to the development of sustainable water and sanitation systems for all;
- Reinforce partners’ capacity to consistently provide high-quality water and sanitation services in emergencies.