3 May 2015 — An ongoing armed conflict in Yemen has made it more difficult for millions of people to obtain safe water. In war-torn areas, many people stand in a long queue holding jerry cans hoping to find water. The limited access to clean, safe drinking-water has exacerbated the already deteriorating health situation in the country.
Recently, shortages of safe drinking-water have resulted in increased risk of diarrhoea, and other diseases. National disease surveillance reports show a doubling in the number of cases of bloody diarrhoea in children below the age of 5, as well as an increase in other environment related diseases such as malaria.
Scarcity of safe water is growing and becoming more acute in most affected governorates, including Aden, Lahj, Abyan, Taiz, Sa’ada and Hajja.
Responding to the dire needs of water, WHO has provided water, hygiene supplies as well as hundreds of thousands of chlorine tablets for drinking water disinfection for internally displaced persons (IDPs), host community and health facilities in the most affected governorates.
“The task of delivering safe drinking-water to the deprived areas was not easy,” said Dr Ahmed Shadoul, WHO Representative for Yemen. “Public transport to the conflict areas is becoming inaccessible due to insecure roads and shortage of fuel. However, we could hire vehicles and water tankers with high cost.”
Over the past 2 weeks, WHO have been trucking drinking-water and distributed jerry cans as well as provision of water disinfectant in Abyan, Hajja, Hodeida and Sa’ada governortes. The Organization is also planning to scale up activities of safe drinking-water delivery to other affected areas. WHO intervention aims to prevent and control diseases caused by unsafe water.
In Hajja, WHO, in collaboration with OXFAM, have distributed and installed 20 water tanks in Abs district sufficient for 1100 displaced families of IDPs and the host community. Safe drinking water was also delivered to the emergency and reproductive health sections, outpatient clinics and laboratory in Rural Abs Hospital. Additionally, WHO has sent more than 400 000 chlorine tablets to Abs.
WHO has also been providing water supplies and jerry cans for 480 internally displaced families in 7 schools in Ja’ar city of Abyan governorate, where many IDPs are stationing in schools after they have escaped fierce clashes in neighboring Aden.
In addition, WHO has provided water trucking for 9 health facilities in Abs, Haradh and Hairan Districts in Hajja governorate, and two health facilities in Majz district, Sadaa governorate. Unless WHO has provided this water trucking to these health facilities they were about to shut down due to scarcity of water. The provision of drinking-water to health facilities is always linked to the number of IDPs utilizing the facility, as well as the critical services provided by the facility.
“WHO has secured the needed water for Haradh Hospital,” said Dr Yassir Watthab, head of Haradh Public Hospital. “It has supported us to make a contract with an owner of water tanker to fill the hospital’s tanks 3 times a day so the hospital can function appropriately.”
As attacks on northern Sa’ada governorate intensified, water supplies have become scarce. Despite a serious risk of being attacked, volunteers have distributed 50 000 chlorine tablets for 300 families and 500 jerry cans (20 L) provided by WHO. Clean water was also delivered to 350 families in Takhya district.
WHO has also transferred 250 000 chlorine tablets from Sana’a to Hodeida to be distributed to IDPs in Al-Zohra and Alluhaya districts. Currently, there are more than 3 million chlorine tablets stored in Sana’a, Aden and Sa’ada provided by WHO.
“We are making every effort to deliver safe water and chlorine tablets to the affected areas where prices of water trucking have increased dramatically. We have coordinated with volunteers who have been previously trained by WHO on water treatment during emergencies,” said Abdul-Malik Mofadal, Environmental Health officer for WHO Yemen.
“Volunteers really sacrifice their lives in these areas to distribute water supplies to people in need,” said Mofadal.
Globally, WHO is estimated that 842 000 deaths per year is attributable to unsafe water supply, sanitation and hygiene and includes 361 000 deaths of children under the age of 5, mostly in developing countries.