Dirty water ‘more dangerous to children than violence’

A child carries a bottle filed with the water of the well in the popular district of Yopougon, where inhabitants lack of of drinking water, in Abidjan, on March 21, 2019 a day before the World Water Day celebrations. (AFP)
Updated 23 March 2019

Dirty water ‘more dangerous to children than violence’

  • The UNICEF report noted a few exceptions, saying children under 15 in Iraq and Syria were more likely to die of violence, as were children under age 5 in Syria and Libya

NEW YORK: Children under age 15 are almost three times more likely to die from diseases due to lack of clean water and sanitation than from violence in countries in conflict, the United Nations’ children’s agency reported on Friday.
Most vulnerable are young children under age five, who are 20 times more likely to die from diseases than violence, said the report by UNICEF, released to coincide with World Water Day.
Specifically, children die of diarrhea-related illness, such as cholera, when conflict restricts access to clean water, it said.
The research looked at the health consequences of unsafe water and sanitation for children in 16 countries undergoing conflict, including Myanmar, Afghanistan and Yemen.
“In these conflicts — and other emergencies — providing rapid, comprehensive and safe water and sanitation is a matter of life and death,” said the report.
UNICEF reported 85,000 diarrheal deaths due to poor water, sanitation and hygiene in children from 2014 to 2016, compared with just under 31,000 deaths due to violence, citing World Health Organization (WHO) data.
“It isn’t surprising,” Tomas Jensen, adviser for tropical medicine at the medical charity Medecins Sans Frontieres, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
“They are often the ones at greatest risk, especially young children who haven’t built up immunity to bacteria that can cause diarrheal disease,” he said.
Diarrhea-related illness is the second leading cause of death for all children under 5, depleting body fluids and causing dehydration, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Particularly vulnerable to dehydration are children and infants, who lose fluids more quickly than adults and are less able to communicate their needs, experts say.
In conflict, journeying to a water source may carry the risk of being shot or sexually assaulted, the report said.
Water might become contaminated, its sources destroyed or residents may be denied access, it said.
In Yemen, a third of the cases were children under age 5, according to WHO.
The UNICEF report noted a few exceptions, saying children under 15 in Iraq and Syria were more likely to die of violence, as were children under age 5 in Syria and Libya.
Methods of warfare in those countries, such as aerial bombing of urban areas, land mines and unexploded ordnance put children at high risk, a UNICEF spokesman said.


Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

Updated 10 min 31 sec ago

Macron backs month of Brexit talks as Johnson visits

  • Macron has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement regarding Ireland
  • The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints in Ireland

PARIS: French leader Emmanuel Macron backed the idea of a month of further talks to find a solution to Brexit while ruling out major compromises as he met British Prime Minister Boris Johnson for talks on Thursday.
Like German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, Macron supported allowing another 30 days to find a solution to the vexed issue of the Irish border which has bedevilled negotiations since 2017.
“We need to try to have a useful month,” Macron said alongside Johnson who insisted that solutions were “readily available” to prevent checkpoints returning in divided Ireland.
But Macron, who admitted he had a reputation as the “hardest in the gang” on Brexit, has rejected Johnson’s calls to scrap a key arrangement for Ireland negotiated between the EU and former British premier Theresa May.
At stake is the so-called “backstop,” which is a provision guaranteeing that border checks will not return between EU member Ireland and Northern Ireland which is part of Britain.
Johnson considers the backstop to be “anti-democratic” and an affront to British sovereignty because it will require London to keep its regulations aligned with the EU during a transition exit period.
“The technical solutions are readily available (to avoid checkpoints) and they have been discussed at great length,” Johnson said. “You can have trusted trader schemes, you can have electronic pre-clearing.”
The EU argues the backstop is necessary to avoid the re-emergence of checkpoints which could lead to a return of fighting on the divided island where anti-British violence has claimed thousands of lives.
“I want to be very clear. In the coming month, we will not find a new withdrawal agreement that is far from the fundamentals,” Macron said at the Elysee palace in central Paris.
Since Johnson’s ascent to power last month, the chances of a “no deal” Brexit on October 31 have risen, which economists see as likely to wreak economic damage on Britain and the EU.
“The EU and member states need to take the possibility of a ‘no deal’ outcome much more seriously than before,” a senior EU official told reporters in Brussels on Thursday on condition of anonymity.
A French official said on Wednesday that this was becoming the “most likely” scenario.
The Paris visit was the second leg of Johnson’s first foreign trip as prime minister.
On Wednesday, he was in Berlin for talks with Merkel who appeared to offer a glimmer of hope by saying Britain should try to find a breakthrough to the issue over the next month.
“I want a deal,” Johnson told Macron. “I think we can get a deal and a good deal.”
He added that he had been “powerfully encouraged” by his talks with Merkel. “I admire that ‘can do’ spirit that she seemed to have.”
But many Brexit watchers see Merkel’s remarks as fitting a pattern in which she has often been more conciliatory in public about Brexit than Macron, whose abrasive remarks have caused anger in London in the past.
“There is not the width of cigarette paper between Paris and Berlin on these issues,” a senior aide to Macron said on Wednesday on condition of anonymity.
The EU official in Brussels added that the EU was “a little concerned based on what we heard yesterday (in Berlin).”
“We are waiting for new facts, workable ideas,” the official added.
Johnson, who has deployed his French language skills to charm diplomats in Paris before, has staked his leadership on withdrawing Britain from the EU by the current deadline of October 31 — “do or die.”
Some analysts see a risk of relations between Macron and Johnson becoming stormy in public, which could lead to a blame game about a “no deal” Brexit.
Johnson reportedly once called the French “turds” over their stance on Brexit during his time as foreign secretary — remarks he later said he could not recall.
But Macron pre-empted any attempt to deflect blame onto the European side during a press conference on Wednesday before Johnson’s arrival.
“It will be the responsibility of the British government, always, because firstly it was the British people that decided Brexit, and the British government has the possibility up to the last second to revoke Article 50,” he said.
Article 50 is the legal mechanism used by EU members states to withdraw from the bloc which was triggered by Britain in March 2017.
At the weekend, Macron, Merkel and Johnson will meet US President Donald Trump, a vocal supporter of both Brexit and Johnson, at a G7 summit in the French seaside resort of Biarritz.