WHILE a United Nations panel has found that the daily Saudi-led air raids on Yemen have caused more than 18,000 civilian casualties since 2015, 90% of the country’s 30 million population are waging a daily struggle to obtain sufficient clean water to survive.
Located in a dry and semi-arid region, Yemen has always been faced with a severe water crisis.
The harshness of nature has been exacerbated in recent years by the cruelty of the Saudi-led coalition against the Yemeni nation.
Right now, more than 90% of the population struggles every day to find or buy enough clean water to drink or to grow crops.
The situation is alarming in Sana’a
The capital of Yemen is home to more than four million people and a refuge for hundreds of thousands of internally displaced Yemenis.
Sana’a is the only capital city in the world that may run out of water within a few years.
Dozens of water wells in Sana’a Basin have already dried up this year alone.
Thousands of people have to drink and wash from polluted water sources like ponds and dams, while many have no choice but to send their children to faraway places to fetch clean water.
Yemen’s network of water pipes which reaches only 30% of the nation has seriously been damaged by Saudi aircraft and ground forces.
The ongoing war has made the upgrading and maintenance of the water network almost impossible in many places.
Saudi Arabia has reportedly been preventing access to storage tanks and pipes and as a result more than 15 million people resort to expensive and arduous ways to find enough water for their daily consumption.
Yemeni-Saudi employment relations date back decades, with thousands of Yemeni being encouraged to go to Saudi Arabia for work.
However, Riyadh seems to have moved recently to dismiss these Yemeni nationals, forcing them to leave the country.
Yemeni journalist Yousef Mawry said: ‘The country does have enough water resources for the time being.
‘However, the problem is not having access, or not having the proper management for these water resources because of the war by Saudi Arabia and because of the blockade on Yemen’s economy, and these two factors are making it almost impossible to properly manage Yemeni aquifers, water facilities, water, water stations across the country.
‘These are the primary resources for water for Yemenis.
‘The war effort by Saudi Arabia is also hindering and sabotaging all efforts to establish a water scarcity awareness programme that could help enforce water regulation laws that can help pave the way for a functioning water system that caters to domestic needs, agricultural needs, and industrial needs.
‘However, because of the war the water system in Yemen is currently in crisis.’
At the same time, the Saudi-imposed blockade on the country has prevented the entry of fuel, and therefore a large number of water pumps have stopped working and the costs of transporting water have exorbitantly increased.
The main pumping station for water in Sana’a is currently operating only 60 out of 330 wells due to the blockade.
In addition, since the outbreak of the war in 2015 most of the water projects supported by international organisations have come to a halt.
In fact, with the green light from the White House, Riyadh is using water as a weapon to make the civilians succumb to a peace vision formulated by the coalition.
Yemeni journalist Yousef Mawry said: ‘Many believe that this is the primary aim or goal of Saudi Arabia to cure the water crisis so that panic can ensue.
‘And obviously when panic ensues, when there’s no water access, people take matters into their own hands.
‘And unfortunately that does result into the deterioration of establishing a proper water system that regulates how water is distributed and how water is maintained in Yemen.
‘So yes, unfortunately, people have died of thirst, and people have died because of diseases and illnesses that came as a result of people not having access to clean water.’
The Saudis have systematically been targeting dams, wells, reservoirs, water structures and infrastructure including networks and irrigation systems.
That has led to acute water shortages for both drinking and irrigation.
A UN panel says at least 18,000 Yemeni civilians have been killed or wounded by Saudi airstrikes in 2015.
In 2016, Saudi fighter jets targeted a major desalination plant in the city of Mokha, causing the disruption of water supplies in numerous Ansarullah-controlled territories.
Yemeni journalist Yousef Mawry said: ‘This is undeniable; Saudi Arabia has a propensity to target water dams, to target water reservoirs, desalination plants and water pipelines across the country.
‘And this does seem to be a tactic that is calculated, and it’s been exercised by Saudi Arabia since the war started.
‘You’ve seen Saudi Arabia, in the past, target Yemeni power transmission towers, so that Yemenis don’t have access to electricity, you’ve seen Saudi Arabia target schools, so that Yemenis don’t have access to education and we’ve seen Saudi Arabia target hospitals so Yemenis don’t have access to basic medical healthcare.’
The same year, the Saudi-led coalition bombed Sana’a’s central water tanks, which cost $4 million to build. Located in the Nahdian district, the reservoir provided water for 30,000 civilians.
The Saudis also destroyed the seawater desalination plant on Kamaran Island in Hodeidah.
UN: 5 million Yemenis just one step away from famine, related diseases
A senior UN official says about 5 million people in Yemen are just one step away from famine and the diseases that go with it.
As of early March this year, Saudi attacks destroyed 1,488 water installations including dams and reservoirs completely.
Yemeni journalist Yousef Mawry said: ‘You know it’s amazing that under the circumstances Yemenis are still able to put up a resistance effort against Saudi Arabia.
‘However, unfortunately, Saudi Arabia has succeeded in one thing and that is killing people, killing innocent people across Yemen, and they’re doing it in a number of ways, one of which is the airstrikes.
‘And another way that Saudi Arabia is using to kill Yemenis is cutting off their supplies (access) to basic necessities such as water, electricity, and hospitals.
‘Because of (the blockade) Yemeni people cannot get access to basic medical health care to treat the illnesses and the diseases that they are facing as a result of the war, and as a result of the blockade and as a result of not having access to clean water.
In 2018, Saada’s Nushour Water Project was struck, rendering the plant inoperable and leaving 10,500 civilians without potable water.
The bombing of freshwater sources has, on the other hand, contributed to the rapid spread of a devastating cholera outbreak in Yemen.
Yemeni journalist Yousef Mawry said: ‘We suffer from the cholera which was brought to us by the aggressor’s air forces. Neither the Ministry of Health nor the United Nations care about our water. No one cares.
‘Most of the water in Sana’a is contaminated with bacteria. 70% of the water is contaminated. Sana’a deserves water.’
Nearly 21 million Yemenis in need of assistance
A recent UN report says nearly 21 million Yemenis are in a dire humanitarian situation, and that their condition is getting worse day by day.
Yemeni journalist Yousef Mawry said: ‘When you don’t have access to clean water sanitation fails, and that’s when you start to witness cholera outbreak across the country.
‘And when you start to zoom in and look at the main cause of this you see that this is because of the Saudi destruction of critical water infrastructure that is leaving millions of Yemenis with unsafe and unclean water.
And most of these cholera outbreaks are actually happening in Yemeni refugee camps.
‘We actually visited one of these camps, two years ago, and were able to discover that the main source of water for these refugees was contaminated, an infested water well that the refugees were usually using as their main water supply.
‘And because that was their only source of water they had to continue using it, and unfortunately, that resulted in another cholera outbreak at the refugee camp, and I’m sure that’s the case in most refugee camps across the country.’
While deliberate targeting of civilian infrastructure violates international humanitarian law, existing laws fail to prevent attacks on civilian water systems. The international community has done nothing to prevent the Saudi-led coalition from targeting such infrastructure.
Much of Yemeni soil has dried up; poverty is grinding and widespread, as the deadly blockade persists in the absence of any international pressure.
Without water, neither man nor nature can survive
Without water, not only are people thirsty but also crops cannot grow. And without crops, there is no food, making it difficult for the war-weary Yemenis to deal with two catastrophes at once.
The UNICEF says one child dies as every 10 minutes go by in Yemen, where a Saudi-led war is in full swing.