LONDON, March 29 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nearly 27
million people in countries facing famine - Nigeria, Somalia,
South Sudan and Yemen - do not have access to safe water, which
can be as deadly to severely malnourished children as a lack of
food, the U.N. children's agency said on Wednesday.
More than 20 million people - a number greater than the
population of Romania or Florida - risk dying from starvation
within six months in the four countries due to conflict and
climate change, the United Nations said last month.
UNICEF said water shortages, inadequate sanitation and poor
hygiene posed additional risks to malnourished children in the
four countries and could lead to fatal diarrhoeal diseases.
" ... unsafe water can cause malnutrition or make it worse,
no matter how much food a malnourished child eats, he or she
will not get better if the water they are drinking is not safe,"
Manuel Fontaine, UNICEF director of emergency programmes, said.
"The combination of malnutrition, dirty water and poor
sanitation sets off a vicious cycle from which many children
never recover," Fontaine said in a statement.
In northeast Nigeria, where millions of people have fled an
insurgency by Boko Haram militants, 75 percent of water and
sanitation infrastructure has been damaged on destroyed, leaving
3.8 million people without access to safe water, UNICEF said.
In Somalia, which has been hit by the worst drought in 20
years, many water sources have dried up or were contaminated,
leaving about a third of the population without access to water,
sanitation and hygiene, it said.
UNICEF said conflict had left 5 million people in South
Sudan and at least 14.5 million people in Yemen with no access
to safe water, basic sanitation and hygiene.
"We are working around the clock to save as many lives as we
can as fast as we can," Fontaine said.
"But without an end to the conflicts plaguing these
countries, without sustainable and unimpeded access to the
children in need of support and without more resources, even our
best efforts will not be enough."
Last month, United Nations Secretary General Antonio
Guterres said more than $4 billion was needed by the end of
March to respond to the emergency, which has resulted in nearly
500,000 children suffering from severe acute malnutrition.
(Reporting by Magdalena Mis @magdalenamis1; Editing by Katie
Nguyen.; Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the
charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian
news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate
change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org)