The report focuses on nine countries where violence and conflict are widespread, and the impact of attacks on children. It is estimated that about 48 million people need safe 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, attacks on children’
Protecting safe and reliable water and sanitation services has proven to be a critical factor in ensuring the survival of millions of children. The study indicates that in fragile countries, children under the age of five are 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal diseases than violence.
“Having water is a means of survival that should never be used as a method of warfare,” said Manuel Fontaine, Director of Emergency Programs at UNICEF. “Attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure are attacks on children.”
“When the flow of water stops, diseases like cholera and diarrhea can spread like wildfire, and often have deadly consequences,” added Mr. Fontaine. Hospitals cannot function, malnutrition and wasting rates are increasing. Children and families are often forced to flee in search of water, which puts them, especially girls, at increased risk of harm and violence.
© UNICEF / Shehzad Noorani
The report categorizes the devastating nature of the attacks on water infrastructure: in eastern Ukraine, for example, where some 3.2 million people need 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.
Yemen witnessed 122 airstrikes on water infrastructure during the six-year war. Cholera continues to make thousands of children sick every week, and about 15.4 million people urgently need safe drinking water and sanitation.
Stop the attacks immediately
UNICEF identifies a number of steps that must be taken urgently, to ensure that children in conflict areas are protected, and that they have access to safe and adequate water.
The agency says that parties to conflict must immediately end attacks on water and sanitation services and their personnel, and fulfill their obligations to protect children in conflict situations.
The reports also invite member states of the United Nations, including Security Council Members, to take strict measures to hold the perpetrators of these attacks accountable; To donors to invest in water and sanitation in conflict situations; The public may add their voice to protect the infrastructure and water workers.