Friday, March 22, 2019

The Water of Life

Children under five who live in conflict zones are 20 times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases linked to unsafe water than from direct violence as a result of war, Unicef has found. The UN children’s agency also found that unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene kills nearly three times more children under 15 than war.

Unicef’s executive director, Henrietta Fore, said,“Deliberate attacks on water and sanitation are attacks on vulnerable children.  The reality is that there are more children who die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets. Water is a basic right. It is a necessity for life.”

“Human beings can run away or take shelter from bullets or bombs, but they will run towards and seek out water at any cost,” said Omar El Hattab, Unicef’s regional chief of water, environment and sanitation for the Middle East and North Africa. “Unfortunately, unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene reaches every household, and will still be demanded by people – if people are thirsty, they will drink any kind of water. In Yemen, a child dies every 10 minutes from preventable causes, and many of those causes – malnutrition, cholera, diarrhoea – are related to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene."
Diarrhoeal disease linked to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene kills an average of 72,000 children under five each year, while direct violence from war kills an average of 3,400, according to the report. Diarrhoea killed more children under five in each of the 16 countries analysed bar Libya and Syria, the report found. Under-15s were more likely to die from diseases related to unsafe water everywhere but Libya, Iraq and Syria.
“Water, sanitation and hygiene services should never be interrupted or politicised: access to safe water is a human right, not a privilege,” said El Hattab.“Indiscriminate attacks on water and sanitation services must be stopped, and personnel for power supply, and water and sanitation workers should be allowed to access facilities for repairs and maintenance irrespective of where those facilities exist.”

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