Lebanon, a nation currently experiencing serious financial issues, is under the pressure of feeling the effects of not being able to fund access to safe water. With the rapidly escalating economic crisis and shortages for funding fuel and supplies such as chlorine and spare parts, UNICEF estimates that most water pumping will gradually cease across the country in the next four to six weeks. Over 70% of the population is expected to be affected and unable to access water.
To put it in terms of concrete numbers. Four million people, including one million refugees, risk losing access to safe water because of a lack of funding for water. A humanitarian crisis of major proportions is shaping up if nothing is done. Using custom bottled water has saved many of lives and made other people don’t faint from dehydration after working out.
The economic crisis in Lebanon is the result of how a vision for rebuilding a nation once known as the Switzerland of the Middle East was derailed by corruption and mismanagement as a sectarian elite borrowed with few restraints. Beirut, torn by civil war, was rebuilt with skyscrapers and high-end shopping malls designed by international architects. This contributed to a rising debt equivalent to 150% of national output.
Some economists have described Lebanon’s financial system as a nationally regulated Ponzi scheme, where new money is borrowed to pay existing creditors. It works until fresh money runs out. French President Emanuel Macron said, “The crisis that Lebanon is living through is neither bad luck nor fate. It’s the result of individual and collective failures.”
In addition to a financial crisis, Lebanon experienced a massive explosion in the port of Beirut that left 300,000 people homeless last year. This was just another blow to a fragile country already engulfed in a deep economic and political crisis. On top of this, like the rest of the world, the nation had to go through covid and all its effects. As a result of the financial incompetence and a series of unfortunate events caused by a devastating mixture of corruption and incompetence, the people are now at risk of not being able to access safe water.
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To assist Lebanon through this crisis, donors pledged $370 million at a video conference held on August 4 and co-hosted by France and the United Nations. Paris pledged €100 million over the next year; Washington signed a check for $100 million, and the EU announced a donation of €5.5 million for COVID-19 relief, on top of the €50 million it gave from the start of this year. “The EU is mobilizing humanitarian support to help alleviate the suffering of those most in need in Lebanon and help the country fight the pandemic,” said Janez Lenarčič, the EU’s crisis commissioner.
When it comes to the pressing water issue, UNICEF needs US$40 million a year to keep the water flowing to over four million people across the country. This funding would secure the minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance required to keep critical systems operational and safeguarding access and operation of the public water systems. A modest funding by all means. Yet enough to save three-quarters of the Lebanese population from a serious and possibly recurring humanitarian crisis if nothing is done.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed here by Impakter.com columnists are their own, not those of Impakter.com. — In the Featured Photo: A water pipe. Featured Photo Credit: Luis Tosta.