Friday, September 17, 2021
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HomeWorldLebanon: Public Water System On The Verge Of Collapse, UNICEF Warns

Lebanon: Public Water System On The Verge Of Collapse, UNICEF Warns


The public water system in Lebanon is “on life
support” and could collapse at any moment, putting 71 per
cent of the population, or more than four million people, at
immediate risk of losing access to safe supply, the UN
Children’s Fund,
UNICEF,
warned on Friday.

Most water pumping
will gradually cease in the next four to six weeks,

the agency estimated, due to the escalating economic crisis
and shortages in funding and supplies, such as chlorine and
spare parts.

‘Squeezed to destruction’

A
collapse could lead to water prices rising by 200 per cent a
month as families rush to secure alternative or private
suppliers.

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

“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,”
she added.

High levels
of vulnerability

A UNICEF assessment based on data
from Lebanon’s four main public utility companies revealed
that more than 70 per cent of people are now living with
“highly critical” and “critical” levels of
vulnerability.

Nearly 1.7 million people have access
to just 35 litres a day, compared with the national average
of 165 litres prior to 2020, or a nearly 80 per cent
decrease.

Additionally, public water utility providers
can no longer afford essential spare parts, while the price
of bottled water has doubled over the past
year.

“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,”
Ms Mokuo
said.

Urgent action needed

UNICEF requires
$40 million a year to secure the minimum levels of fuel,
chlorine, spare parts and maintenance necessary to keep
critical systems operational.

Ms. Mokuo underscored
the need for urgent action as facilities such as schools and
hospitals will not be able to function, and millions will be
forced to resort to unsafe and expensive water
sources.

“The immediate adverse effect would
be on public health,”
she said.
“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.”

UNICEFworks with public
water supply providers to reach the most vulnerable children
and womenin Lebanon, and supported delivery of safe water
to communities during the pandemic.

“We will remain
steadfast in our support to communities as resources permit,
but this alarming situation requires immediate and sustained
funding,” Ms. Mokuo said.

“UNICEF stands ready
to support, particularly as the global pandemic evolves, to
ensure that the most basic right to clean water is met for
children and families at this critical time for
Lebanon.”

Widespread crisis

According to
figures from the World Bank last month, Lebanon is
living through one of the world’s three worst financial
and political crises since the mid-19th Century.

Its currency has lost more than 90 per cent of its value
since late 2019, and its GDP has fallen by some 40 per cent
since 2018.

Last week, the UN Special Coordinator for
Lebanon, Joanna Wronecka,
expressed deep regret
over the inability of Lebanon’s
leaders to reach agreement on the formation of a new
government, adding that it was urgently needed to address
the country’s numerous challenges.

She called for
swift measures to ensure the designation of a new Prime
Minister, in line with constitutional requirements, and the
formation of a Government able to undertake the necessary
reforms to put Lebanon on the path to recovery ahead of free
and fair elections next
year

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