Lack of clean water is deadlier than violence in war-torn countries, UNICEF report says |
Water Under Fire Volume 3, highlights that children’s access to water has been threatened in almost all conflict-related emergencies in which UNICEF operates.
The report focuses on nine countries where violence and conflict are prevalent, and the impact of attacks on children. An estimated 48 million people are in need of drinking water and sanitation services in the following countries (Central African Republic, Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Pakistan, Sudan, Syria, Ukraine and Yemen).
“ Attacks on water and sanitation are attacks on children ”
Protecting safe and reliable water and sanitation services has been shown to be a critical factor in ensuring the survival of millions of children. The study notes that in fragile countries, children under five are 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases than from violence.
“Access to water is a means of survival that should never be used as a tactic of war,” said Manuel Fontaine, director of emergency programs at UNICEF. “Attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure are attacks on children.”
“When the water flow stops, diseases like cholera and diarrhea can spread like a forest fire, often with fatal consequences,” Fontaine added. “Hospitals cannot function and rates of malnutrition and wasting are increasing. Children and families are often forced to seek water, putting them, especially girls, at increased risk of harm and violence. “
© UNICEF / Shehzad Noorani
The report documents the devastating nature of the attacks on water infrastructure: in eastern Ukraine, for example, where some 3.2 million people are in need of water and sanitation services, 380 attacks have been recorded. since 2017.
In the State of Palestine, there have been 95 attacks on 142 water and sanitation infrastructure since 2019, leaving more than 1.6 million people without access to these basic services.
And Yemen saw 122 airstrikes on water infrastructure during the six-year war. A cholera epidemic continues to make thousands of children sick every week and an estimated 15.4 million people are in urgent need of safe water and sanitation.
Stop attacks immediately
UNICEF describes a number of measures that should be taken urgently to ensure the protection of children in conflict zones and guaranteed access to safe and sufficient water.
Parties to the conflict, the agency says, must immediately end attacks on water and sanitation services and personnel, and fulfill their obligations to protect children in conflict.
The reports also call on UN member states, including members of the Security Council, to take stronger action to hold perpetrators to account; for donors to invest in water and sanitation in conflict situations; and for the public to add their voice to protect infrastructure and water workers.