By Prudence Arobani
The Boko Haram insurgency in the Northeast destroyed no less that 75 per cent of the water and sanitation infrastructure in the geo-political zone, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said.
Mr Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s Global Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene, stated at the commencement of the World Water Week and reported that 3.6 million people lacked water in northeast.
“In conflict-affected areas in northeast Nigeria, 75 per cent of water and sanitation infrastructure has been damaged or destroyed, leaving 3.6 million people without even basic water services,” Wijesekera said.
“In far too many cases, water and sanitation systems have been attacked, damaged or left in disrepair to the point of collapse.
“When children have no safe water to drink, and when health systems are left in ruins, malnutrition and potentially fatal diseases like cholera will inevitably follow,” he added.
“In famine-threatened north-east Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen, nearly 30 million people, including 14.6 million children, are in urgent need of safe water.
“More than five million children are estimated to be malnourished this year, with 1.4 million severely so,” the UNICEF official stressed.
He added that in South Sudan, where fighting has raged for over three years, almost half the water points across the country have been damaged or completely destroyed.
In countries beset by violence, displacement, conflict and instability, children’s most basic means of survival – water – must be a priority, he said.
Wijesekera warned that children living in fragile situations were four times more likely to lack access to drinking water.
“Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege” Wijesekera said.
According to the UNICEF official, more than 180 million people in crisis-torn countries have no access to drinking water.
UNICEF said that in Yemen, a country reeling from the impact of over two years of conflict, water supply networks that serve the country’s largest cities are at imminent risk of collapse due to war-inflicted damage and disrepair.
Around 15 million people in the country have been cut off from regular access to water and sanitation, the UN children’s agency said.
UNICEF said Somalia was suffering from the largest outbreak of cholera in the last five years, with nearly 77,000 cases of suspected cholera/acute watery diarrhoea.
Similarly, in South Sudan, the cholera outbreak was the most severe the country has ever experienced, with more than 19,000 cases since June 2016, according to UNICEF. (NAN)