Lebanon's public water system on the verge of collapse, warns UNICEF

WION Web Team
New Delhi Published: Jul 24, 2021, 12:17 PM(IST)

Representative image. Photograph:( Zee News Network )

Story highlights

UNICEF has estimated that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks

More than four million people, including one million refugees, are at an immediate risk of losing access to safe water in Lebanon. With the rapidly escalating economic crisis, shortages of funding, fuel and supplies such as chlorine and spare parts,

UNICEF has estimated that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks.

Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF Representative in Lebanon, in a statement said, "The water sector is being squeezed to destruction by the current economic crisis in Lebanon, unable to function due to the dollarised maintenance costs, water loss caused by non-revenue water, the parallel collapse of the power grid and the threat of rising fuel costs".

"A loss of access to the public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs".

As per UNICEF, if the public water supply collapses, water costs could skyrocket by 200 per cent a month.

For Lebanon’s extremely vulnerable households, this cost will be too much to bear as it represents 263 per cent of the monthly average income.

Also read | Lebanon few days away from social explosion: PM Diab

According to a UNICEF-supported assessment based on data collected by the country’s four main public water utility companies, more than 71 per cent of people fall within ‘highly critical’ and ‘critical’ levels of vulnerability. Also, nearly 1.7 million people have access to only 35 litres a day. This is a decrease of almost 80 per cent against the national average of 165 litres pre-2020. 

Yukie Mokuo said, "At the height of the summer months, with COVID-19 cases beginning to rise again due to the Delta variant, Lebanon’s precious public water system is on life support and could collapse at any moment". She further added, "Unless urgent action is taken, hospitals, schools and essential public facilities will be unable to function and over four million people will be forced to resort to unsafe and costly sources of water, putting children’s health and hygiene at risk. The immediate adverse effect would be on public health. Hygiene would be compromised, and Lebanon would see an increase in diseases. Women and adolescent girls would face particular challenges to their personal hygiene, protection and dignity without access to safe sanitation”.

UNICEF needs a total of US$40 million a year to keep the water flowing to over four million people across the country. This can only be done by securing the minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance required to keep critical systems operational. 

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