War and water. The incidence of conflicts in access to drinking water
Attacks on sanitation infrastructures are one of the main threats in areas affected by armed conflicts. Not only bombs and other attacks by land, sea or air are the center of the problem. Populations whose water and sanitation infrastructures are undermined by these attacks suffer the most devastating consequences, especially in the case of children and the elderly, the most vulnerable.
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The flow of water as a guarantee of life and health
When a water infrastructure is affected by military attacks, the flow of water stops and the proliferation of diseases such as cholera and diarrhea begins. In addition, the civilian population is forced to move in search of drinking water, thus increasing their risk of exposure to the conflict. According to UNICEF in its report on Attacks on water and sanitation services in armed conflicts and the impacts on children In these types of situations, children are more likely to die from water diseases than from direct violence.
Good quality drinking water is a guarantee for those who in these circumstances see their supply diminished or destroyed. It is here when the different actors must review their action plans and think about different supply alternatives, such as supply systems. extraction, condensation and purification of Rain Of Life water. Alternative systems that manage to alleviate this lack of populations subjected to the armed conflict.
Armed conflicts where attacks on sanitation services and water supply are frequent
The aforementioned UNICEF report focuses primarily on five countries affected by armed conflict that have documented frequent systematic attacks on water and sanitation services, as well as the misuse of infrastructure and the denial of access to personnel, who have had a devastating impact on children: State of Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine and Yemen.
Specifically in Iraq, In Iraq, where the degree of security outside Baghdad is very low, the parties armed for the conflict have taken advantage of opportunities to control water infrastructures in places far from urban centers.
In addition, in these conflicts, attacks on any area of infrastructure, for example, energy can have devastating effects on water, sanitation and other services because in many cases the flow of water depends on electrical pipeline systems that also involve the center of the bullseye for those who want to destroy a town in favor of the success of the battle.
The attacks that cause this damage are usually predominantly from the air (for example, aerial attacks with large bombs or missiles, rocket and drone attacks) or from the ground (explosive weapons in common use include indirect firearm systems such as mortars, rockets and artillery, multi-barreled rocket launchers and certain types of improvised explosive devices). In addition, attacks can cause direct impacts on any aspect of the infrastructure, equipment or consumables necessary to operate the systems, or on the personnel who operate and administer the systems. During the war, the parties to the conflict interrupt and render useless water and sanitation services by looting spare parts, consumables or fuel necessary to keep the systems in operation.
Humanitarian personnel are often at high risk when working in conflict-affected contexts. Personnel can be injured or killed while operating, maintaining or repairing critical water and sanitation infrastructure.
Attacks on people who operate essential services can be part of a broader tactic to disable or degrade the civilian population. Without a doubt, everything adds up when it comes to ending who is considered an enemy, even if children or innocent collaborators who try to end the disasters of war fall along the way.
Children, the big ones affected by the lack of water
The Children’s rights convention of 1989 already defines as a fundamental right the right to drinking water and sanitation, as well as access to food, medical care and protection. However, the persistence of conflicts pose a clear threat to these fundamental rights.
That is why UNICEF proposes in this Convention to work to achieve three main objectives:
- Stop attacks on water and sanitation personnel and infrastructure.
- Create systems for the provision of good quality water and sanitation services on a sustained basis during emergencies.
- Combine life-saving humanitarian responses with the development of sustainable water and sanitation systems for all.
To do this, it is necessary to create systems that can guarantee the right to adequate water and sanitation and prevent disease outbreaks. Furthermore, this requires humanitarian and development organizations to collaborate early on to establish resilient systems.