Millions of Lebanese risk losing access to safe drinking water: UNICEF | Middle East News

UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across Lebanon over the next four to six weeks.

The United Nations has warned that more than four million people in Lebanon, including one million refugees, risk losing access to clean water as shortages of funding, fuel and supplies affect water pumping .

“UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country over the next four to six weeks,” a UN agency statement said on Friday.

Lebanon is in the throes of an economic collapse that has plunged more than half of its population into poverty and has seen its currency lose more than 90% of its value in less than two years.

The financial crisis has resulted in severe shortages of basic commodities such as fuel and medicine as dollars run out.

The United Nations agency said maintenance costs incurred in US dollars, funding shortages and the parallel collapse of the electricity grid were rapidly destroying the water sector.

UNICEF said if the public water supply system collapsed, water costs could increase by 200% per month, as water would be supplied from private water providers.

The UN agency said it needs $ 40 million per year to ensure the minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spares and maintenance required to keep critical systems operational.

“Unless urgent measures are taken, hospitals, schools and essential public facilities will not be able to function,” UNICEF representative in Lebanon Yukie Mokuo said in the statement.

The Lebanese pound, which has been pegged to the US dollar for years, has lost more than 90 percent of its value in the past 18 months.

Electricity in most places is barely available an hour a day while the fuel needed to power the generators is also insufficient.

Basic drugs have been missing from drugstore shelves for months, and private hospitals on Thursday warned they were “hours away” from losing all power.

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