Water Crisis Haunted Middle East and North Africa

Children in the Middle East and North Africa experience health, nutrition, and development problems.

water crisis
The Middle East and North Africa region is the region with the highest water scarcity in the world. (Special Document)

ACTNews, JAKARTA – The United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) stated that in 2021, Nearly 9 out of 10 children in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) live in areas of high or extremely high-water stress with serious consequences on their health, nutrition, cognitive development, and future livelihoods. 

The MENA region is reported to be the most water-scarce region in the world. Out of the 17 most water-stressed countries in the world, 11 are in the MENA region. 

According to a new UNICEF report titled ‘Running Dry: the impact of water scarcity on children in the Middle East and North Africa’, nearly 66 million people in the region lack basic sanitation and very low proportions of wastewater are adequately treated.

Additional factors contributing to water scarcity include conflict, especially in Syria, Yemen, and Sudan, migration of people from rural to urban areas, population growth, poor water management, deteriorating water infrastructure.

“Water Scarcity is having a profound impact on children and families, starting with their health and nutrition. Water scarcity is also increasingly becoming a driver for conflicts and displacement,” said Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Deputy Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa. “Within this context, it is even more unacceptable that those fighting in conflicts targets water infrastructure. Attacks on water infrastructure must stop,” he added.

While not the sole reason for water scarcity, climate change results in less rain for agriculture and the deterioration of the quality of freshwater reserves due to the movement of saline water into freshwater aquifers and increased pollution concentrations.

“In many countries of the region, children are increasingly having to walk a long distance just to fetch water instead of spending that time at school or with their friends playing and learning,” said Chris Cormency, UNICEF WASH Regional Advisor for the Middle East and North Africa.[]