Children living in protracted conflicts are three times more likely to die from water-related diseases than from violence

In protracted conflicts, children under the age of 15 living are, on average, almost three times more likely to die from diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence, UNICEF said in a new report today.

22 March 2019
Aleksey, 14, lost two fingers and a thumb when a discarded shell exploded in his hand.
UNICEF/UN0150855/Gilbertson VII Photo
Aleksey, 14, lost two fingers and a thumb when a discarded shell exploded in his hand.
  • 3.6 million people affected by the damaged water systems
  • 500,000 children are in need of clean drinking water
  • over 30 water workers killed or injured since the beginning of the conflict
  • 1 in 4 near the 'contact line' suffer from the water shortages
  • 89 attacks on water in eastern Ukraine in 2018, and 19 attacks in 2019

Kyiv/New York, 22 March 2019 – In protracted conflicts, children under the age of 15 living are, on average, almost three times more likely to die from diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence, UNICEF said in a new report today.

Water Under Fire report looks at mortality rates in 16 countries going through prolonged conflicts and finds that, in most of them, children under the age of five are more than 20 times more likely to because of lack of access to safe water and sanitation than direct violence.

“The odds are already stacked against children living through prolonged conflicts – with many unable to reach a safe water source,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The reality is that there are more children who die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets."

In eastern Ukraine, 3.6 million people are affected by water systems damaged by the conflict. Frequent water shortages, coupled with Ukraine's low immunisation rates, increase the risk of communicable diseases. Lack of clean water and proper sanitation puts children’s futures at imminent risk.

These threats are exacerbated during conflict when indiscriminate attacks destroy infrastructure, injure personnel and cut off the power that keeps water, sanitation and hygiene systems running. In 2018 alone, water supply in eastern Ukraine was disrupted 89 times, affecting millions of civilians, with an additional 19 incidents reported, so far, in the first three months of 2019. Armed conflict also limits access to essential repair of water systems. Over 30 water workers have been killed or injured since the beginning of the conflict in Ukraine.

“Deliberate attacks on water and sanitation are attacks on vulnerable children,” said Fore. “Water is a basic right. It is a necessity for life.”

Despite the risk, UNICEF and WASH Cluster partners helped local authorities keep clean water flowing for more than 2.3 million people in 2018, coordinating emergency repairs and maintaining supplies for water treatment items. With support of the Government of Germany, UNICEF assisted more than 1.8 million people in eastern Ukraine by providing water treatment chemicals, equipment, emergency repairs and upgrades to fragile water system infrastructure.

UNICEF is calling on governments and partners to:

  • Stop attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure and personnel;
  • Link life-saving humanitarian responses to the development of sustainable water and sanitation systems for all;
  • Reinforce governments and aid agencies’ capacity to consistently provide high-quality water and sanitation services in emergencies.

***

Notes to Editors:

The report calculated mortality rates in 16 countries with protracted conflict: Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Iraq, Libya, Mali, Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, the Syrian Arab Republic and Yemen. In all these countries, with the exception of Libya, Iraq and Syria, children 15 and younger are more likely to die from water-related diseases than as a result of collective violence. Excluding Syria and Libya, children under the age of five are almost 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal-disease linked to unsafe WASH than due as a result of collective violence.

The estimates were derived from WHO mortality estimates for ‘collective violence’ and ‘diarrheal deaths attributable to unsafe WASH’ between 2014 – 2016.

 

Media Contacts

Nina Sorokopud

Chief of Communication

UNICEF in Ukraine

Tel: +380503882951

About UNICEF

UNICEF promotes the rights and wellbeing of every child, in everything we do. Together with our partners, we work in 190 countries and territories to translate that commitment into practical action, focusing special effort on reaching the most vulnerable and excluded children, to the benefit of all children, everywhere.

For more information about UNICEF and its work for children, visit www.unicef.org.

Follow UNICEF on Twitter and Facebook