Yemen, millions of people without water and electricity in the Gulf of Aden: it is the country with the largest water deficit in the world

ROME – Living in Aden, the largest city in southern Yemen, means struggling daily with a lack of drinking water and electricity. The right to health, education and health care of millions of people is threatened. This happens especially in summer, when temperatures reach 40 degrees and the humidity becomes suffocating.

War. Fighting in Yemen began in 2014 when the Houthi rebel movement, an Iranian-backed Shiite militia, seized control of the northern part of the country up to Sana’a, the capital, forcing President Abdrabbuh Mansour Hadi into exile in Yemen. The conflict turned bloodier in March 2015, when Saudi Arabia and eight other majority-Sunni states, backed by the international community, launched air offensives against the Houthis, with the express aim of returning Hadi to his post. Despite the violence that has spread almost throughout the country, Aden has always remained relatively stable. The Houthis entered the city in the spring of 2015, but were then driven out after months of fighting by forces led by the Yemeni government and a coalition of which Riyadh was part. In May 2017, the Transitional Council for the South, a secessionist political organization informally supported by the United Arab Emirates, was established in Aden with the aim of creating a southern state with its capital in Aden.

Water and electricity problem. Before the start of the conflict in 2014, documents Human Rights WatchIn 2010, residents of Aden enjoyed a regular supply of water and electricity. Today, however, many people get water from the public network every two or three days, and some never get it at all. In July and August 2023, the state electricity company could only distribute electricity for four to six hours a day. That’s a slight improvement from June, when electricity was only available for about two or three hours a day, leaving many families without air conditioning, with average temperatures above 38 degrees and humidity above 65 percent.

Displaced. Displaced people find it even more difficult to get drinking water. The director of one of the city’s largest camps told HRW that in order to meet the needs of the refugees, he had to rely on non-governmental organizations to provide water inside the camp. During the last summer, several protests broke out in Aden demanding that the Transitional Council commit to the availability of water and electricity. The Sana’a Center, a research organization, told HRW that police even used force to suppress protesters and discourage marches. Yemen has long been one of the world’s most water-scarce countries, a problem exacerbated by historic government mismanagement and lawlessness by warring parties. Natural events linked to climate change, including droughts and floods, have exacerbated the country’s water crisis.

The most vulnerable. Water shortages disproportionately affect women and children, who are also generally entrusted with the burden of bringing water into their homes. They often spend hours walking through dangerous streets, where they are at risk of sexual violence, sniper attacks and mines. Children, especially girls and boys, skip school days to bring water to their homes and families. According to UNICEF, the lack of safe drinking water and adequate sanitation has contributed to the rise of diseases, including a cholera epidemic from 2016 to 2021 that claimed more than 2.5 million lives.

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