The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says deliberate and indiscriminate attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure, personnel and power supplies is a violation of International humanitarian law.
UNICEF stated this in its latest Water Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) report tagged: “Water Under Fire” made available to media men on Thursday in Abuja.
The publication further identified intentional and arbitrary denial of services vital to communities as a violation.
UNICEF called on governments, partners and parties in conflict to stop attacks on water, sanitation infrastructure and personnel among others to ensure the realisation of the accrued benefits.
It decried that emergency responses were too often under-resourced, dependent on underdeveloped water and sanitation systems and incapable of addressing complex needs.
“Attacks during conflict are one part of the complex set of challenges facing water and sanitation responses in emergency situations.
“Commonly, though, emergency responses occur in countries with underdeveloped water, sanitation and power systems, often countries that struggle to meet the targets set out in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
“In these countries, when emergency strikes, the WASH and power systems are not resilient enough to handle the shock.
“As crisis wears on, the problems are compounded, and service providers face safety concerns and shortages of personnel and materials needed to operate and maintain systems.
“The decline has a cumulative effect, and systems can be crippled by neglect and long-term degeneration. As a result, progress toward achieving the SDGs can be reversed,” it noted.
According to UNICEF, around the world, water and sanitation is recognised as a right and acknowledged as an essential part of life-saving humanitarian responses.
The organisation decried that efforts to restoring service and provide emergency relief were often blocked by fighting and political or logistical barriers.
According to the document, these actions, attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure and personnel and children must stop.
It further noted that humanitarian aid must be allowed to reach children and families in need, adding improved methods were needed to monitor attacks on WASH systems.
“Policies and legal measures are required to protect vital civilian infrastructure and personnel,” it noted.
The organisation urged governments to build a WASH sector that could consistently and predictably provide high-quality water and sanitation services in emergencies.
He further called for provision of comprehensive and life-saving services, adding that the WASH sector needed to build technical, operational and personnel capacity to address increasingly complex and protracted crises.
The organisation said the sector must improve and reach out to more children and families as well as increase its quality and coverage.
“To achieve these goals, resources are essential, but building capacity can also require commitment in addressing water and sanitation needs in increasingly complex and protracted emergencies and in hard-to-reach areas.
“Information and methods required to address gender-sensitive vulnerabilities, flexible and multi-year funding that provides for immediate and long-term needs are also required.
“There is need for strengthened monitoring and analysis of water and sanitation in emergencies to better prioritise and meet needs link life-saving humanitarian responses to the development of sustainable water and sanitation systems for all,” UNICEF said.