More children die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets-UNICEF


By Chika Onyesi

Without safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at risk of malnutrition and preventable diseases including diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera and polio.

In a recent study, the United Nations Children’s Fund, reported that children in war torn countries are more at the risk of death by sickness than by violence.

‘‘Children under the age of 15 living in countries affected by protracted conflict are, on average, almost three times more likely to die from diarrhoeal diseases caused by a lack of safe water, sanitation and hygiene than by direct violence, says the report’’

According to the study, ‘‘Water Under Fire’’ conducted in 16 countries going through prolonged conflicts, mortality rates suggests that most children under five are 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal-related complications linked to lack of access to safe water and sanitation than direct violence.

“The odds are already stacked against children living through prolonged conflicts – with many unable to reach a safe water source,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore. “The reality is that there are more children who die from lack of access to safe water than by bullets.”

The challenge is even more pathetic in Nigeria’s North East where access to sanitation services is almost non – existent as a result of insugency.

According to UNICEF Nigeria Representative, Mohamed Fall, lack of access to safe water has led to deadly outbreaks of cholera.

In north-east Nigeria, 5,365 people were affected by cholera, with 61 dying in 2017, while 12,643 people were affected and 175 died of cholera in 2018.

“More than 3.6 million people are in need of water, sanitation and hygiene services – 1.1 million of these are internally displaced (IDPs), having fled their homes due to violence and conflict’’.

‘‘Many of them are out-of-reach, in remote areas still impacted by conflict. About 800,000 people are in hard-to-reach areas and 79 percent of these are children and women,” said Mohamed Fall.

Now the global charity says it is working to scale-up lifesaving responses, especially in IDP camps, to ensure quality and sustainability of Water and Sanitation services and facilities

They hope to minimize the risk of hygiene -related diseases and provide preventive measures against cholera and other water-borne diseases.

Meanwhile UNICEF notes that young girls bear the highest brunt of all poor sanitation related outcomes in war thorn zones.

The agency says girls are vulnerable to sexual violence as they collect water or venture out to use latrines; they deal with affronts to their dignity as they bathe and manage menstrual hygiene and they miss classes during menstruation if their schools have no suitable water and sanitation facilities.

‘‘These threats are exacerbated during conflict when deliberate and indiscriminate attacks destroy infrastructure, injure personnel and cut off the power that keeps water, sanitation and hygiene systems running’’.

‘‘Armed conflict also limits access to essential repair equipment and consumables such as fuel or chlorine – which can be depleted, rationed, diverted or blocked from delivery. Far too often, essential services are deliberately denied’’.

“Deliberate attacks on water and sanitation are attacks on vulnerable children,” said Fore. “Water is a basic right. It is a necessity for life.”



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