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Exclusive - Recurrent Water Shortages Add to Yemeni Troubles

Exclusive - Recurrent Water Shortages Add to Yemeni Troubles

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018 - 11:00
Children queue for water at a school in Sanaa, Yemen. (Reuters)
Sanaa – Asharq Al-Awsat
A chronic water crisis, added to overwhelming economic difficulties, continues to devastate Yemeni people, who struggle daily to secure living necessities. Water shortages have severely impacted local communities already suffering from a bloody war waged by the Iran-backed Houthi militias.

“I’m staying with my family at a rental in a building where the landlord installed apartment-specific gauges to impose charges on water,” Ahmed, 55, told Asharq Al-Awsat, while protesting the hefty water bills.

“The very same water consumption that once cost me around 3,000 Yemeni rials per month now costs up to 9,000-10,000 rials, which is financially burdensome,” he explained.

Steep costs forced thousands of Yemeni families, suffering economic constraints caused by the irresponsible Houthi war, to resort to unsafe water supplies.

Ahmed’s family of 11, which was joined by relatives who fled Hodeidah, needs a considerably large amount of water to sustain their day-to-day activities. As the prime breadwinner, and one of the many unpaid civil workers, Ahmed said that most of the time they struggle to pay outstanding water bills.

“I have no salary, and often, my children go to their schools and universities without money and sometimes even without breakfast. How will I secure all these priorities? I do not know. I have lost stability in my life and I live in a constant state of disarray,” Ahmed said, while complaining that water is only one of a number of essential commodities that saw their prices go up since 2014, when the Houthi coup started.

At times, the water supply would be completely cut off by the landlord and Ahmed’s family would be forced to find alternatives.

Sometimes they channel “water from charity reservoirs placed on the streets by benefactors,” Ahmed said, describing as “unimaginable” the distress he and his family is enduring.

Despite washing their laundry once every two weeks, Ahmed said the water supply is always short. Safe drinking water is also being sold at higher prices.

“The rise in oil rates has turned our lives into a living hell,” he added, while tracing back the current economic collapse to increased commodity rates accompanied with lowered purchase power and national currency devaluation.

“We were pumping 6,000-liters of water in 2012 for 1,250 rials only, and in 2013 it increased to 1,500 rials. Now the same amount is being pumped at 3,000 rials to tank owners,” revealed Abdul Karim, a 20-year-old water pump owner.

Today, a 6,000-liter water tank sells at a consumer price range of 6,000- 8,000 rials—cost is determined by transportation and delivery extra fees. The dollar is being sold at about 750 rials in Yemeni black markets.

With aid packages by international and local organizations being barely enough to sustain Yemeni society as it is, the ongoing conflict is likely to further destabilize and tear down public services, making it harder for relief efforts to keep up.

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