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Safe water restored for families in Taizz as Yemen battles cholera outbreak

© UNICEFYemen/2017/Esam
The inauguration of a water system rehabilitated by UNICEF in Taizz City in Yemen. It will provide safe drinking water to nearly half a million people in and around the city

BY Mohammed Al-Asaadi

Taizz City, 15 June 2017 - For nearly half a million people inside Taizz enclave, water supply is the most stressful and time consuming task that parents and children endure every day. Taizz city is witnessing a relentless ground fighting and airstrikes for over two years now. The conflict has worsened the already severe water shortage in the densely populated south western city of Yemen.

Yemen is currently grappling with a cholera outbreak with up to 135,000 suspected cases and over 974 deaths as of June 13. More than half of the cases and a quarter of the deaths are children.

Safe drinking water and improving hygiene are essential in the fight against cholera. In a country where more than 14 million people have been left without access to safe water due to conflict, such restoration of essential infrastructure is key to containing the spread of cholera, both in the immediate and in the long run.

Abu Majd Hilal who chose to remain in the city despite the intensive shelling and bombardment says that water for his family is a real daily challenge, particularly after the disruption of the national water system in the city due to the conflict. Although he relies on water trucking for the minimum quantity of water needed by his family, he says that there are people who can’t afford such a privilege. “It’s expensive and the demand on water trucking is increasing since the water network is not functioning,” he said. “We are now more concerned about the quality of water. If the water we get in these trucks is contaminated with cholera or any germs, we are simply dead given that the health facilities in Taizz city are either destroyed or fully packed with war casualties.” 

© UNICEFYemen/2017/Esam
UNICEF Representative in Yemen, Dr Meritxell Relaño is briefed about the water system during the inauguration in Taiz City. Back-up generators, chlorine injectors have been provided as well.

In response to the water crisis and the unprecedented cholera outbreak and suspected cases that have now been reported in 209 out of 22 governorates across Yemen including Taizz, UNICEF recently inaugurated a huge water project for Taiz. UNICEF supported the development and rehabilitation of the water supply system for Taizz city and those displaced in adjacent districts in Ibb governorate. 17 of 21 groundwater wells were rehabilitated. Back-up generators and pipe network system were provided to pump water to nearly half a million people.

“UNICEF is supporting the connection of the water network that will provide t safe and clean drinking water to more than 400,000 of the most affected people inside Taizz city in Salah, Al-Qahirah, Al-Mudhafar and Al-Taizyah districts,” said Meritxell Relaño ,UNICEF Representative in Yemen during the inauguration of the water system. “This will also help over 100,000 people displaced by the fighting in the city as well as the host communities. This is a joint effort that was successfully implemented in cooperation with the water public corporation.”

Dr Relaño says the rehabilitation of the water system represents a shift in the implementation strategy; from water trucking to investing in the long term infrastructure of water networks and water system. The restoration of the water in Taizz is a major boost to preventive measures to combat the cholera outbreak particularly with the provision of chlorine injectors installed in the water wells.

Eng Mohammed Ibrahim, Director of Water and Sanitation Corporation in Taizz city, said that the rehabilitation of this 17 wells by UNICEF and provision of power generators, water pumps and equipment will help provide clean and safe water to the distressed population in Taizz city.

“Upon the official inauguration of the renovated water field, we immediately started pumping water over a 25km pipeline connecting the wells and the city water tanks,” said Ibrahim. “Water distribution to households will continue so that we ensure sustainable water supply in all the four districts of the city.”

In addition to the great negative impact of the ongoing conflict, Yemen has been suffering years of under-investment in public water and sanitation systems. The ongoing fighting, increasing poverty, stressed livelihood and wide scale displacement is a recipe for the cholera outbreak in addition to the collapsing health system. Families simply are unable to afford basic sanitation and hygiene items such as soap, washing powder and access to clean water.

In partnership with the German Development Bank (KfW), UNICEF is providing emergency water, sanitation and hygiene services for displaced communities, and is supporting rehabilitation and operation of public water infrastructure across Yemen. As a result of this partnership, the water supply capacity in conflict-torn Taizz city has increased from 3,000 cubic meter/day to 5,000 cubic meter /day. With support from partners, UNICEF continues working to ensure that millions, living in the most affected and vulnerable communities, get access to safe water and sanitation.



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