Yemen is currently going through a severe civil war. The Yemeni government’s failed political transition has led to multiple uprising since 2015. As the conflict enters its fifth year in 2020, the effects are becoming clearer. At the end of 2018, over 6,800 civilians had been killed. An additional 10,768 people were wounded and the conflict also had a significant impact on Yemen’s infrastructure. Sanitation is one aspect of Yemen’s infrastructure that has been affected the most by the ongoing conflict. Here are 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen.
10 Facts About Sanitation in Yemen
- Water is a scarce resource in Yemen. Before the current civil war began in 2015, experts already warned that Yemen’s capital city, Sana’a, might run out of water in 10 years. In a BBC report, they noted that this water problem is exasperated by farmers drilling underground wells without any government regulations.
- In 2018, an estimated 19.3 million people did not have access to clean water and sanitation. Years of aerial bombing and ground fighting destroyed Yemen’s water facilities. The power plants that supplied electricity to power water pumps and purification plants were also destroyed. This has put the quality of water and access to water in jeopardy.
- People in Yemen depend on private water suppliers for their water, as a result of the destruction of public water infrastructure. An estimated 56 percent of residents in the city of Sana’a and 57 percent in the city of Aden depend upon these private water distributors.
- This reliance on private water distribution contributes to high water prices. Private water distributors set their water prices based on the prevailing market price and the distance traveled to deliver their water. Since many of the wells close to populations are drying up, the distance these distributors need to travel is increasing. In the city of Sana’a, on average, people are paying 3.8 times more for water than if they had access to the public water supply network
- The weaponization of water use as a siege tactic in Yemen. The Saudi-UAE coalition and the Houthi rebels use water as a way to carry out strategic military operations. In 2016, Saudi forces carried out a strategic bombing of a reservoir that served as a source of drinking water for thirty thousand people.
- Access to improved latrines decreased from 71 percent in 2006 to 48 percent in 2018. Unsurprisingly, places that prioritized the rampant famine and cholera outbreak had the lowest rates of access to improved latrines. Furthermore, the majority of female respondents reported that their access to the latrines was particularly challenging because the majority of the latrines are not gender-segregated.
- Water in Yemen is often not sanitary. This is a result of the direct impact the civil war has on the sanitation in Yemen. Cholera remains the most significant threat to water quality, with Yemen still recovering from the cholera outbreak of 2017. As of November 2019, there were 11,531 suspected cases of cholera in Yemen.
- Destruction of wastewater treatment plants is contributing to poor sanitation in Yemen. Without facilities to treat wastewater, raw sewage is usually diverted to poor neighborhoods and agricultural lands. This leads to further contamination of local water wells and groundwater sources.
- UNICEF undertakes many restoration efforts for water treatment facilities in Yemen. For example, UNICEF restored a water treatment plant named Al Barzakh. This plant is one of the 10 water treatment centers that supplied water to Aden, Lahij and Abyan governorates. This $395,000 restoration project had a major impact. Cholera cases in the region dropped from 15,020 cholera cases in August 2017 to 164 cases in January 2018.
- The World Bank Group’s International Development Association is working on a 50 million-dollar project to provide electricity in Yemen. The project aims to provide solar-powered electricity to rural and peri-urban communities in Yemen. In addition to supplying powers to Yemeni schools, the project will improve sanitation in Yemen by providing power to water sanitation facilities. This is especially important for girls’ education in Yemen since the burden of water collection usually falls upon girls, often deterring girls from going to school.
These 10 facts about sanitation in Yemen highlight continuing problems as well as several efforts to address them. Water was already a scarce resource in Yemen even before the current conflict started in 2015. As the Yemeni civil war enters its fifth year, the effects of the deteriorating sanitation in Yemen are more than clear. However, efforts by groups such as UNICEF and the World Bank are working to fund, build and restore many sanitation facilities in Yemen. With the recent indirect peace talk between the combatants, many hope that conditions in Yemen will improve in the future.
– YongJin Yi