How water is used as a weapon of war

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The lack of access to, and poor sanitation of, water in war-torn countries is as deadly as bullets and bombs, according to Unicef (The United Nations Children’s Fund).

Populations in countries of conflict face intermittent water supplies and damaged sanitation infrastructure. People are often forced to rely on unsafe water supplies. Children are the most vulnerable; water and sanitation related diseases are the leading causes of death in children under five (Unicef).

Check out WikiTribune’s water package page here.

Water services and sanitation systems have been under repeated attack in Yemen, where civil war has been ongoing since 2015 following a crisis whose roots can be traced to the 2011 Arab Spring. (Read WikiTribune’s explainer on the Yemeni crisis here.)

Yemen’s public facilities – including electricity stations – have been on the verge of collapse since 2015. Much of the infrastructure supplying water services has now been destroyed, evacuated or closed down due to lack of resources or by attacks from insurgents. Many of the country’s remaining water points are dangerously polluted.

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Outbreaks of cholera and acute diarrhoea have been directly linked to the water crisis. According to UNICEF, four children a day die from cholera, an infectious disease passed through infected water.

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  • A timeline of events leading up to now in Yemen about how water supplies have been affected. Children are most affected by attacks on water services.
  • An explainer on water crises across several countries: Nigeria, Sudan, Somalia, Iraq and Yemen are just a few examples.


Who should be interviewed?


  • Timothy Grieve, Unicef senior advisor, Emergency Water, Sanitation and Hygiene – a Unicef report on the issues that children face in conflicts due to lack of access to safe water and sanitation will be published later this year. (Interview done)
  • Martina Klimes, water and peace advisor, Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) – interview scheduled September 24, 7am CT/1pm BST
  • Maude Barlow, water activist, board member of the Council of Canadians and author of Blue Future – interview scheduled September 24 10am CT/4pm BST
  • Collin Douglas, a research fellow with the Center for Climate and Security – interview scheduled September 25 9am CT/3pm BST
Women fill buckets with polluted water near Sanaa, Yemen April 27, 2018. REUTERS/Mohamed al-Sayaghi

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