Lebanon’s water system on the brink of total collapse, UN says

More than 71% of the country’s population – more than 4 million people including 1 million refugees – are at immediate risk of losing access to safe drinking water, UNICEF said Friday.

Pumping of water is expected to gradually cease across the country over the next four to six weeks, due to shortages of funding, fuel and other supplies such as chlorine and spare parts, the agency said. United Nations. Endemic fuel shortages in recent weeks have brought much of the Lebanese economy to a halt.

“A loss of access to public water supply could force households to make extremely difficult decisions about their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs,” said Yukie Mokuo, UNICEF representative in Lebanon.

Lebanon is plunged into a financial and political crisis which the World Bank has described as one of the three worst economic disasters since the mid-19th century. Its GDP per capita has contracted by around 40% and more than 50% of the population has probably fallen below the poverty line.

“Such a sharp and rapid contraction is usually associated with conflict or war,” the World Bank said in its June 2021 report. In the fall of 2020, the World Bank called Lebanon’s financial crisis a “depression. deliberate “- the first time the group has ever used the term to describe a crisis, and a blow to a ruling elite that has done little to stem the financial fall. .

Lebanon has been without a government for almost a year. Former prime minister Saad Hariri last week dropped his bid for a rescue administration, nearly nine months after being tasked with forming a new cabinet.

The move threw Lebanon into even deeper uncertainty, causing its declining currency to fall further into a steep 24-hour drop.

The European Union has threatened to impose sanctions on the country’s sectarian leadership for failing to break the political deadlock, which has left Hariri and his arch-rival President Michel Aoun at loggerheads. Earlier this month, EU foreign policy chief Josep Borrell told reporters he planned to create a legal framework for legal sanctions by the end of July.

Lebanon’s health sector, reeling from a deadly second wave of Covid, has also been hit by the rapid deterioration of infrastructure. Hospitals have repeatedly warned of impending power cuts, as they tackle widespread shortages of medicines, infant formula and basic items in recent months.

The country’s currency has been in free fall since a popular uprising against the Lebanese ruling elite gripped the country in October 2019 and lost more than 95% of its value in less than two years.

In less than two weeks, Lebanon will mark a year since a huge explosion in the port of Beirut, largely blamed on government negligence, devastated the capital, killing more than 200 people and injuring thousands.

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