Drinking water and sanitation is the title of the second section of our series of articles on health and the environment in Arab countries. This article is based on the chapter on the report of the Arab Forum for Environment and Development (AFED). The chapter was written by Dr. May Al-Jurdi, Professor of Environmental Health at the American University of Beirut, with Dr. Jumana Nasr, Professor at the University of Health Sciences, and Rola Ajeeb, Supervisor of the Environmental Health Laboratory at AUB.
Water, sanitation and hygiene services play a key role in addressing emerging diseases, as confirmed by calls from the World Health Organization to provide safe water and boost the Corona virus that is emerging to strengthen sanitation and hygiene services.
In mid-2010, the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution declaring that access to drinking water and sanitation services was a human right, closely linked to the right to life and human dignity. The United Nations has also recognized the issue of water and sanitation as one of the Sustainable Development Goals (Goal Six), which calls for safe drinking water and basic sanitation services to be provided to all people by 2030.
In the Arab world, the Arab League adopted in 2012 the Arab Strategy for Water Security for 2030. He highlighted the close relationship between water, energy and food. However, global and regional policies have not yet achieved the ambitious goals achieved so far in all developing countries, including middle- and low-income Arab countries.
The recently released “Health and Environment” report by the Arab Environment and Development Forum (AFED) examines key environmental factors that have a major impact on various aspects of human health in Arab countries, such as water and sanitation issues.
For example, the World Health Organization is the leading cause of death in children under the age of five, accounting for 20% of all deaths. Unsafe water and untreated sewage, along with limited hygiene, poor food and climate change, are major factors in the growth and prevalence of diarrhea in middle- and low-income countries.
The death toll in the world rose to 842 thousand in 2014. The death toll in the Arab world from waterborne diseases related to water, sanitation and hygiene services was about 29 thousand in 2016.
Arabian water is declining and quality is deteriorating
Depending on the scale of the overall disease burden, the number of years of life lost as a result of health illness, disability, or premature death, in 2016 it approached about 2.4 million years due to diarrhea in the Arab world due to lost health. Most of them are in Somalia, Mauritania, the Comoros, Djibouti, Yemen and Sudan. Proportion of population.
On the other hand, Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have safe management and extensive coverage of drinking water and sanitation services, air pollution, exposure to chemical pollutants, and environmental and household injury determinants remain major environmental risk factors in those countries Meanwhile.
In other Arab countries, which account for about 57% of the Arab population, environmental risks associated with water, sanitation, air pollution, exposure to chemicals, waste and food pollution increase the burden of infectious and non-communicable diseases.
The Arab region is among the most vulnerable to global water stress due to scarce renewable resources and overexploitation of available resources. The 14 countries with the most water in the world are located within the Arab region. This reality is exacerbated by climate change, continued population growth, dependence on shared or transboundary water resources, and weak water governance.
The AFED report considers water scarcity to be a key challenge, including the consolidation of poor water resource management, including poor assessments of water resources and quality. This disability has a negative impact on the development and sustainability of drinking water and sanitation services.
The available data indicate that 90% of Arab citizens have access to drinking water, which is close to the global average. However, sustainable water quality control programs need to be developed as a direct indicator of physical, chemical and biological safety.
Sanitation and reuse
Safely managed sanitation services are provided to about 29% of the Arab population, which is compared to the global average of 45 percent. Kuwaitis have the widest coverage for safe drinking water and sanitation services at 100 percent, and these Lebanese ratios drop to 48 percent for safe drinking water and 22 percent for adequate sanitation.
The differences are not limited to rich and lower-income countries, but also include rural and urban areas in the same country. It has been highlighted that the poorest rural areas have poor access to safe water and sanitation services.
Kuwait also treats all sanitation and its competition in the Emirates is close to 99%. Although the percentage of wastewater treated in Mauritania is less than 0.7%, the rates of other Arab countries in wastewater treatment are less than 50 percent in Lebanon, Libya, Algeria, Iraq and Morocco, and more than 50 percent in Egypt, Palestine, Tunisia, In Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Jordan.
Wastewater treatment and reuse are key to providing water supply in most Arab countries, especially with climate change and increasing demand due to population growth. In the countries of the Gulf Cooperation Council, it is very clear that wastewater treatment and reuse are essential to reduce the financial and environmental burden of desalination to supply water.
Water support to 17 countries
In terms of development aid to the water and sanitation sector, in 2017, 17,000 Arab countries received $ 1.6 billion in subsidies. It is a good percentage compared to the total official support for global development of the sector, which amounted to $ 8.8 billion, of which 136 countries benefited. Jordan’s share was the highest in the Arab world, with grants of more than half a million dollars.
Although external development subsidies account for a fraction of global spending on the water and sanitation sector, the amounts received by some countries have been impressive. The $ 58 million in official development assistance received by Mauritania was nearly 60% of the country’s spending on the sector.
Overall, this support is sufficient to achieve the sixth national development goals related to drinking water and sanitation. Assessing the difference between available funding and water, sanitation and hygiene requirements, it was 68% in Lebanon and 47% in Palestine in 2017.
The 2019 “Sustainable Development Goals” report states that only 9 Arab countries, including Jordan, Tunisia and Lebanon, as well as the Gulf states, are on track to achieve their sixth development goal. The rest of the country in the region is seeing stops or advanced measures to achieve this goal.
Poverty is the most important challenge in achieving the sixth goal of development, as it hinders the provision of adequate infrastructure and is hampered by political instability, widespread corruption, multiple ethnic conflicts, climate change and other man-made factors.
Conflicts also hinder the achievement of the sixth goal of development. In Iraq, Libya, Palestine, Somalia and Sudan, drinking water and treatment plants were severely damaged as a result of the war. Relocation has put a lot of pressure on the infrastructure of recipient countries that are already weak and have limited resources.
Water pollution poses a major threat to Arab countries with scarce water resources, and unsustainable urban projects add to population growth and climate change. Water scarcity is forcing many countries to resort to water resources that are uncommon, such as the desalination of seawater, high costs, and high environmental impacts. Increasing demand in Gulf countries has led to over-exploitation of aquifers.
Other issues that hinder progress towards the sixth development goal are weak water governance, lack of integrated water resources management, lack of integrated water, sanitation and hygiene programs to ensure public health, lack of public participation in the water sector and commitment limited political and financial.
The AFED report concludes that achieving the sixth development goal is not only in the public interest, but also a milestone in the development of structures and ecosystems to provide greater response to health and development needs. It calls on Arab countries through strategic initiatives to achieve these goals by 2030, strengthening the decision-making mechanism, using performance indicators, ensuring material and human resources, seeking regional cooperation and improving and monitoring water security.