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Water, Sanitation and Hygiene

Wars and water: caring for children in conflict situations

In Afghanistan, UNICEF’s long-term working relationships with government departments, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and private contractors ensured that water and sanitation efforts, including well-drilling operations, continued even during the height of the 2002 bombing campaign.

The Iraq crisis has required the largest water supply and sanitation operation ever undertaken by UNICEF. Inside Iraq during 2003, the water and sanitation programme carried out repairs to water treatment plants, repairs to water distribution systems, solid waste collection, sewerage pump station repairs and trucking water in Baghdad, Basrah and other cities providing millions of litres daily.
In 2000, UNICEF formulated intervention priorities called “Core Corporate Commitments” that identify UNICEF’s initial response in protecting and caring for children and women in conflict and unstable situations. 

UNICEF is committed to ensuring key water and environment sanitation interventions: 

  • Availability of a minimum safe water supply
  • Water purification
  • Safe handling and storage of water
  • Hygiene promotion
  • Safe excreta and solid waste disposal.

Due to the critical nature of basic water and environmental sanitation for survival, those key activities are initiated within 72 hours of the onset of the emergency.

Ms. Bellamy urged governments to continue to invest in clean water and sanitation services and noted that child deaths due to diarrhoea dropped dramatically since the 1980s, when nearly 3 million children a year died. 

“The best way to head off the effect of an emergency is to empower local communities to care for their water supplies and for governments to make investments that will ensure water and sanitation security even during the toughest times,” said Ms. Bellamy

Improving conditions worldwide

The emergency interventions are also influencing post-emergency water, environment and sanitation programme design in some countries. 

In Burundi and Zimbabwe, emergency hygiene promotion programmes in camps and communities resulted in higher levels of hygiene awareness and an increased demand by local authorities for hygiene education programmes. 

In Sudan, emergency programmes have improved the situation for the decentralized management of water systems, and in other countries like Ethiopia and Tajikistan, the UNICEF programme of support during emergencies has effectively demonstrated new and cost effective ways to handle emergencies.

Considering the increase number of the emergency situation around the world and their increasing complexity, providing timely and effective water and sanitation services and facilities to the most affected people in times of need continue to be UNICEF’s key achievement.



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