To mark this year’s World Water Day on Friday, the United Nations International Children’s Fund has lamented that children under the age of 15 in conflict countries die more of diarrhoeal diseases than direct violence, in a new report it released on Thursday.
Specifically, the new report said, 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.
A statement signed by Oluwatosin Akingbulu, Communication Officer, UNICEF, presented the details of the report titled, “Water Under Fire,” which looks at mortality rates in 16 countries going through prolonged conflicts.
The report showed that in most of the countries, children under the age of five are more than 20 times more likely to die from diarrheal-related deaths 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. In Nigeria, the conflict has created huge challenges for people living in the north-east of the country, where violence has affected their ability to access water and sanitation, leading to diseases such as cholera,” said Mohamed Fall, UNICEF Nigeria Representative.
“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 per cent of these are children and women,” said Mohamed Fall.
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.
UNICEF is working to scale-up lifesaving responses, especially in IDP camps, to ensure quality and sustainability of WASH services and facilities, minimize the risk of WASH-related diseases, and to provide preventive measures against cholera and other water-borne diseases.
UNICEF said without safe and effective water, sanitation and hygiene services, children are at risk of malnutrition and preventable diseases including diarrhoea, typhoid, cholera and polio. Girls are particularly affected: They 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.
World Water Day is celebrated annually every June 22.