Clean water becomes a luxury good in war-ravaged Yemen

By Khaled Abdullah

Sanaa, Dec 28 (EFE).- Seven years ago, a war broke out in Yemen and plunged it into the worst humanitarian crisis in the world. Now the situation is further exacerbated to the point that half of the population lacks access to clean water.

The already impoverished country has faced water scarcity for decades, but the ongoing armed conflict between the Saudi-backed internationally recognized government and the rebel Houthi movement has inflicted severe damages on water wells, tanks, desalination plants, pumping stations, and pipelines.

Now, less than 55% of Yemenis have access to safe drinking water, according to the United Nations. Of those, only 18% are connected to the public water supply system that operates only for a few hours a month.

To cope with the situation and to get water for basic needs, many people in the capital Sanaa began to fetch water in jerry cans from mosques, wells or tanks set up by local and international charities and NGOs.

One of them is Ahmad Mujawar, a retired army soldier, who not long ago was forced to walk for over an hour each day to collect water.

“We used to stay days without water,” Mujawar tells Efe as he fills his jerry cans at a water distribution point installed on the outskirts of Sanaa by local charity Mona Relief.

“Because of the lack of income, we used to stay without water, but thank God, today there is water three days a week,” he says.

In March 2020, Mona Relief started its charity initiative to provide around 150,000 liters of drinkable water through 10 distribution points on the outskirts of Sanaa three times a week.

“This is an existing problem in the capital city and provinces due to the seven-year conflict,” Fatik al-Rudaini, chief of Mona Relief, explains.

Al-Rudaini adds that the organization plans to establish five new points in other areas of the capital by 2022, especially those without infrastructure.

Hauling water from the wells is the least expensive means compared to water trucking which involves high costs due to fuel price hikes.

Average prices of trucked water have increased at the end of July 2021 to 12,000 Riyals ($20), a 281% increase compared to 2014, according to government data.

In a country where more than 80% of the population are living on less than $2 a day, households simply cannot afford to purchase water, and thus, clean and safe water becomes a luxury.

Hatem al-Nehmi, 55, is an army officer who looks after his family of 15.

He joins women and children as they wait for a tanker truck to deliver water to a charity distribution point on the outskirts of Sanaa.

He says he is luckier than his neighbors because he can afford the cost of trucking water to his house once a month.

“We are in good shape, there are those who can’t afford the (water) tanker’s cost,” al-Nehmi continues.

Collecting water with buckets and jerry cans was once the daily task of women and children, now the dire shortages have forced men to participate in this vital work.

However, some analysts predict that Sanaa residents could see their city running out of water by 2030, should this war drag on.EFE

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