A man on his way to fill empty water bottles with gasoline. The current crisis has resulted in a shortage of fuel and other basic goods. /AP/ Hussein Malla
An estimated 4 million people in Lebanon, including 1 million refugees, could lose access to safe water within four to six weeks – as the country continues to battle its worst financial and economic crisis.
UNICEF, the UN children’s fund, blamed the crisis on a lack of funding, supplies and the collapse of the country’s power grid, in addition to the escalating economic crisis.
The crisis could “force households to make extremely difficult decisions regarding their basic water, sanitation and hygiene needs,” said Yukie Mokuo, the UNICEF representative in Lebanon.
If the situation continues as it is, UNICEF predicts the cost of water could increase by 200 percent a month.
This means that an estimated 71 percent of the population are at “highly critical” levels of vulnerability due to the water shortage. And around 1.7 million people already only have access to 35 liters of water a day, down from a countrywide average of 165 liters before 2020.
“At the height of the summer months … Lebanon’s precious public water system is on life support and could collapse at any moment,” Mokuo added.
“Unless urgent action is taken, hospitals, schools and essential public facilities will be unable to function and over 4 million people will be forced to resort to unsafe and costly sources of water, putting children’s health and hygiene at risk.”
UNICEF added that it needs $40 million a year to address the problem.
The water crisis is one of the most recent examples of how Lebanon’s economic crisis is now impacting almost every aspect of daily life.
The country’s currency has lost 90 percent of its value since 2019. And in much of Lebanon, electricity is only available for an hour a day.
On July 22, a syndicate of private hospitals warned they were hours away from a “catastrophe,” stating they would not be able to run life-saving equipment because of state power cuts.
Lebanon’s state electricity supplier has almost completely stopped providing power over the past couple of weeks.
“Hospitals are unable to find fuel oil to power generators during power outages of at least 20 hours a day,” the group said in a statement.
“A number of hospitals risk running out in coming hours, which will put the lives of patients in danger.”
Another report published the day before warned that families in Lebanon now have to spend five times the country’s minimum wage on food.
The crisis in Lebanon is also the worst financial crisis in the world since the 1850s, according to the World Bank.