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  • Children stand in line for water at a school in Sanaa, Yemen

    Children stand in line for water at a school in Sanaa, Yemen | Photo: Reuters

UNICEF representative Sanjay Wijesekera stated that children's access to safe water and sanitation “is a right, not a privilege."

In countries affected by conflict, violence and instability, more than 180 million people are deprived of access to clean water, the United Nations Children's Fund has announced as World Water Week begins.

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Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF’s global chief of water, sanitation and hygiene, stated, “Children’s access to safe water and sanitation, especially in conflicts and emergencies, is a right, not a privilege," adding, "In countries beset by violence, displacement, conflict and instability, children’s most basic means of survival – water – must be a priority.”

Wijesekera also emphasized, “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.”

A World Health Organization and UNICEF report indicated that people residing in conflict-ridden and unstable areas are four times more likely to be deprived of clean drinking water compared to areas that are stable and free of armed conflict. The analysis concluded that 183 million people lack clean drinking water.

A textbook case is Yemen. The Saudi-led war of aggression – financed by the United States and the United Kingdom – has rendered the country's water supply virtually unusable in the past two years. On the brink of imminent collapse and disrepair, roughly 15 million people have been deprived of regular access to any form of water and sanitation.

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As a result, Yemeni children comprise more than 53 percent of the over half a million cases of suspected cholera and acute watery diarrhea, according to UNICEF.

Just across the Gulf of Aden, the people of Somalia are victim to the largest cholera outbreak in the past five years. Some 77,000 cases of suspected cholera and acute watery diarrhea have been detected.

The pattern veers westbound to South Sudan where more than 19,000 cases of suspected cholera and acute watery diarrhea are the most the country has ever seen.

Well over seven years of civil war in Syria has resulted in approximately 15 million people – 6.4 percent children – lacking safe water.

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