As war continues to ravage Yemen, at least 16 million people—nearly two-thirds of the country's population—are now without access to clean water, a humanitarian crisis that threatens to escalate, Oxfam warned on Monday.
According to a statement
released by the international aid group, "People are being forced to
drink unsafe water as a result of the disintegration of local water
systems, bringing the real risk of life-threatening illnesses, such as
malaria, cholera, and diarrhea."
"Yemen's hospitals are in no condition to adequately cope with an outbreak of a water-borne disease," the organization stated.
In addition, the price of water that is trucked in from other areas
has tripled, making it an unfeasible alternative for most Yemenis. Prior
to the airstrike campaign, which began March 26, 2015, trucked water
cost $9 in the western governorate of Al Hudaydah. It now costs $36.
Al Hudaydah and nearby Hajjah have seen 40 percent of their water systems shut down.
Roughly 13 million people in Yemen were already without access to
clean water before the war began, with estimates from previous years warning that the capital city of Sanaa could be without "economically viable water supplies" by 2017.
That means it has taken only seven weeks of bombings, ground
fighting, and blocking of humanitarian aid to cut off water access for
an additional three million people.
Without a ceasefire between Houthi factions and the Saudi Arabia-led
coalition—which includes the U.S., Kuwait, Qatar, the United Arab
Emirates, Bahrain, Jordan, Egypt, Sudan, and Morocco—the crisis is
unlikely to let up, and it will be civilians who pay the price, Oxfam
"If the fighting, the fuel shortages, the lack of medical supplies,
lack of sleep due to bombing, and the spiraling prices were not enough,
now nearly two thirds of Yemenis are at risk of being without clean
water or sanitation services," said Grace Ommer, country director for
She added: "This is equivalent to the populations of Berlin, London,
Paris and Rome combined, all rotting under heaps of garbage in the
streets, broken sewage pipes and without clean water for the seventh
Seven weeks of bombing by the coalition has not only caused extensive
damage to civilian infrastructure in Yemen, it has displaced about half
a million people—in turn compounding the growing water crisis, Oxfam
said in a media briefing (pdf) last week.
On Monday, Ommer repeated Oxfam's plea to end the military assault and give Yemenis a chance to recover from the crisis.
"Yemen needs an urgent ceasefire, and the opening of trade routes so
vital supplies can enter the country to allow for the rebuilding and
revamping of the water infrastructure," Ommer said. "Anything short of
this will usher a health disaster to add to the pile of miseries that
Yemenis are facing."
"Yemenis have the right to a better life, but they face an increasing
risk of life threatening illness and disease," Oxfam stated on Monday.
"This is a direct infringement of their right to health and wellbeing,
as outlined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."