Today is World Water Day. Access to safe water is a basic human right. In a refugee context, it is very often the key to life or death for people who have had to flee their homes from war and persecution.

According to a report this year, at least 40 percent of the world's people are affected by water scarcity at present, with as many as 700 million people at risk of being displaced by intense water scarcity by 2030. This is why accessible and adequate Water and Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) interventions is central to the work we do across the world.

Ethiopia

In Ethiopia, thanks to the support of the Jaramas Foundation, last year UNHCR and partners were able to supply water to over 100,000 people in Ethiopia. In addition, 74% of families in Jijiga camps had access to a latrine last year, which both reduces the risk of spreading waterborne diseases and ensures families can go to the toilet safely.

"Water must be an absolute priority in everything we do." António Guterres, UN Secretary-General.

Children quench their thirst outside a resettlement screening centre in Kebribeyah refugee camp, Ethiopia ©UNHCR/F.Courbet

Providing the minimum amount of water for survival in a refugee crisis can be difficult. Multiply this by 671,000 refugees and consider that the scale and scope of the Rohingya Emergency remains unprecedented, and things get even more complicated.

Bangladesh

Right now, as the monsoon season approaches Bangladesh, UNHCR and partners are working relentlessly to ensure Rohingya refugees in the region are protected, safe and prepared to cope with heavy rains and potential mud slides.

As well as upgrading shelters, relocating families most at risk and mobile medical supplies, securing access to safe water is crucial to this. As it is, 16 million litres of safe water is needed every day in the region – to run latrines, washrooms, and health centres. Any impact on these services would impact the lives of thousands of families already vulnerable and exposed.

UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador Cate Blanchett today warned of a “race against time” to protect Rohingya refugees from the worst impacts of the upcoming monsoon season in Bangladesh.

Help UNHCR prepare for the monsoon and prevent an ‘emergency within an emergency.’
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