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More than 180 million people lack basic drinking water in countries ravaged by conflict or unrest - UNICEF

Children living in fragile situations are four times more likely to lack access to basic drinking water

©UNICEF Philippines/2017/Bobby Lagsa
Displaced children from Marawi City wash their hands in a portable handwashing station set up by UNICEF beside a temporary classroom in Barangay Bubong, Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur. Handwashing with soap is one of the most effective ways to prevent the spread of diseases.

NEW YORK/STOCKHOLM/MANILA, 29 August 2017 – More than 180 million people do not have access to basic drinking water in countries affected by conflict, violence and instability* around the world, UNICEF warned today, as World Water Week gets under way.

“Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege” said Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene. ”In countries beset by violence, displacement, conflict and instability, children’s most basic means of survival – water – must be a priority.”

People living in fragile situations are four times more likely to lack basic drinking water than populations in non-fragile situations, according to a recent UNICEF and World Health Organisation analysis. Of the estimated 484 million people living in fragile situations in 2015, 183 million lacked basic drinking water services.

In the Philippines, there are significant regional disparities when it comes to accessing safe drinking water and sanitation facilities, with the conflict-affected Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) having the lowest coverage nationwide. According to the Joint Monitoring Programme report, Progress on Drinking Water, Sanitation and Hygiene: 2017 Update and Sustainable Development Goal Baselines (UNICEF/WHO 2017), only 62% of households in ARMM have access to basic water services and only 22% of households have their own hygienic toilets (compared to, respectively, 91% and 75% at the national level).

The recent outbreak of fighting in and around Marawi has further exacerbated this situation. Many of the evacuation centres are overcrowded and ill-equipped to address the water, sanitation and hygiene needs of displaced families. The available water and sanitation infrastructure in host communities is being put under considerable strain by the sudden increased numbers of people using them.

“In response to the Marawi conflict, UNICEF has been working with Government and NGO partners with support from the Government of Japan and the United Nations’ Central Emergency Response Fund to address critical needs of displaced children and their families, providing water kits, hygiene kits and temporary sanitation facilities. Ensuring that children can drink clean water and practice good hygiene during emergencies is essential to protecting their health and nutritional status,” UNICEF Philippines Representative Lotta Sylwander said.

©UNICEF Philippines/2017/Bobby Lagsa
People fetch water using pails from hygiene kits provided by UNICEF in Barangay Bubong, Saguiaran, Lanao del Sur. UNICEF has provided water bladders and repaired water sources in evacuation centers to provide water to children and families displaced by the armed conflict in Marawi.

In Yemen, a country reeling from the impact of over two years of conflict, water supply networks that serve the country’s largest cities are at imminent risk of collapse due to war-inflicted damage and disrepair. Around 15 million people in the country have been cut off from regular access to water and sanitation.

In Syria, where the conflict is well into its seventh year, around 15 million people are in need of safe water, including an estimated 6.4 million children. Water has frequently been used as a weapon of war: In 2016 alone, there were at least 30 deliberate water cuts – including in Aleppo, Damascus, Hama, Raqqa and Dara, with pumps destroyed and water sources contaminated.

In conflict-affected areas in northeast Nigeria, 75 per cent of water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, leaving 3.6 million people without even basic water services.

In South Sudan, where fighting has raged for over three years, almost half the water points across the country have been damaged or completely destroyed.

“In far too many cases, water and sanitation systems have been attacked, damaged or left in disrepair to the point of collapse. When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow,” said Wijesekera.

In Yemen, for example, children make up more than 53 per cent of the over half a million cases of suspected cholera and acute watery diarrhoea reported so far.  Somalia is suffering from the largest outbreak of cholera in the last five years, with nearly 77,000 cases of suspected cholera/acute watery diarrhoea. And in South Sudan, the cholera outbreak is the most severe the country has ever experienced, with more than 19,000 cases since June 2016. 

In famine-threatened north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, nearly 30 million people, including 14.6 million children, are in urgent need of safe water. More than 5 million children are estimated to be malnourished this year, with 1.4 million severely so.

 

 
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