More than 70 percent of the Lebanese population faces severe water shortages, the United Nations Children’s Agency warns.
Lebanon’s water supply system is on the verge of collapse. In July, a report released by UNICEF warned that most water pumping would gradually cease across the country within four to six weeks as the country’s power grid falters.
On August 21, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said that “unless urgent action is taken, more than four million people across Lebanon – mostly children and vulnerable families – face at the prospect of severe water shortages or of being completely cut off from drinking water supplies in the days to come. “
Nationwide water shortages
Lebanon is facing a serious economic crisis aggravated by a political stalemate. Shortages of funding, fuel and supplies have affected water pumping, limiting people’s access to clean water. The country is also home to the world’s largest per capita Syrian refugee population, providing shelter to 1.7 million people. Baalbek-Hermel and Bekaa regions, both home to at least 40 percent Syrian refugees, are among the areas most vulnerable to water shortages in the country.
In July, the North Lebanon Water Establishment announced a state of emergency and began rationing water supplies to pumping stations and wells in various regions of Lebanon. On the same day, the Bekaa Water Establishment also announced water cuts due to power outages in its pumping stations.
At least 70 percent of the Lebanese population faces severe water shortages and many people are at risk of running out of water in the coming days, according to Unicef.
Clean water is no longer affordable
Lebanon is grappling with an economic collapse that has left more than half of its population in poverty. The financial crisis has resulted in severe shortages of basic necessities, including food, clothing, medicine and fuel. On average, food products cost around 10 times more today than in 2019.
The country’s currency, the Lebanese pound – or lira – has lost over 90% of its value in less than two years.
In 2019, 1,000 Lebanese pounds could buy four liters of bottled water. Today, a 500ml bottle costs that much – a price multiplied by eight.
Without electricity to power the water pumps and money for maintenance, the public water system could collapse. UNICEF has estimated that water costs could increase by 200% per month when sourcing water from alternative or private water providers if the public system collapses. The UN agency said it needs $ 40 million per year to ensure the minimum levels of fuel, chlorine, spares and maintenance required to keep critical systems operational.
The most expensive fuel in the world
Lebanon has seen months of severe fuel shortages that have resulted in long lines at gas stations and plunging the small Middle Eastern country into darkness. On August 11, Lebanon’s central bank said it could no longer finance fuel imports at heavily subsidized exchange rates and would switch to market rates.
The government opposed it, refusing to change official selling prices, creating a deadlock that left importers in limbo and caused supplies to dry up across the country.
Following an emergency meeting on August 21, Lebanese authorities decided to increase the price of fuel by 66 percent in an effort to alleviate crippling fuel shortages.
Lebanon now has the highest gasoline and diesel costs in the world, says GlobalPetrolPrices.com. A liter of gasoline costs an average of $ 4.25 ($ 16 per gallon), while a liter of diesel costs $ 3.27 ($ 12.39 per gallon).