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Water crisis in Yemen amid fuel shortages


December 20, 2017
By Ground Water Canada

Dec. 20, 2017, Amman, Jordan, and Sana’a, Yemen – Recent restrictions on imports of fuel to Yemen have sparked critical shortages and price hikes across the country, severely impacting access to safe water and other vital services for children including health care and sanitation, UNICEF reports.

The cuts are the latest challenge to containing Yemen’s acute watery diarrhea and cholera outbreak. Yemen has for decades struggled with extreme water scarcity, according to a news release from humanitarian organization UNICEF.

“Fuel shortages in Yemen are causing a deepening water and health crisis,” said Geert Cappelaere, UNICEF regional director for the Middle East and North Africa. “This could not come at a worse time for the children of Yemen reeling from violence, malnutrition and an outbreak of diseases including acute watery diarrhea and cholera.”

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The cost of diesel fuel has doubled in just over one month, jeopardizing the provision of water particularly for the poorest families. Water pumping stations serving over three million people via public networks in 14 cities are quickly running out of fuel.

Prices of commercially trucked water – a main source for one fifth of Yemen’s population have skyrocketed. On average, they have doubled while in some locations they increased six-fold. 

“For over two thirds of Yemenis living in extreme poverty, safe water is now completely unaffordable,” Cappelaere said.

Children under five years old account for more than a quarter of nearly one million suspected cases of acute watery diarrhea and cholera. Over 385,000 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition and are fighting for their lives. Poor access to safe drinking water is also one of the most important causes of malnutrition.

UNICEF is providing nearly 450,000 litres of fuel monthly to continue running water pumping stations in Sana’a, Hodeida and Hajjah, among other cities across the country. But UNICEF and other partners have also been hit by the fuel shortages and rising prices, making it even more difficult to meet children’s basic needs.

“Restrictions on humanitarian assistance and imports of lifesaving supplies must urgently be lifted to avoid Yemen spiralling even further into the abyss,” Cappelaere said. “The children of Yemen have already suffered too much and for far too long.”