HotSpots H2O: Fuel Shortages Slash Water Supply for 15 Million in Yemen

A school bombing in Yemen. Photo courtesy of Felton Davis/Flickr.

A fuel crisis in Yemen is severely straining water supplies for 15 million people, according to reports from Oxfam and other aid agencies.    

Fuel prices in the country have skyrocketed since August due to tighter import restrictions. The resulting shortage has hindered water treatment plants, pumps, and delivery trucks, all of which require fuel to operate. As a result, 11 million people who rely on piped networks, as well as 4 million who receive trucked-in water, are facing water scarcity

In the cities of Ibb, Dhamar, and Al Mahwit, which have a collective population of around 400,000, central water systems are fully shut down. 

“This fuel crisis is affecting every area of people’s lives but none more crucial than the lack of clean water,” Muhsin Siddiquey, Oxfam’s Yemen Country Director, said in a statement. “For millions of Yemenis already struggling to survive hunger and disease, clean water is a lifeline that is now being cut.” 

The water cuts are especially devastating due to Yemen’s ongoing cholera epidemic, which has sickened more than two million people since April 2017, and caused nearly 4,000 deaths. Since January of this year, UNICEF reports 687,135 cases of acute watery diarrhea and suspected cholera cases, culminating in 898 deaths. 

Yemen’s civil war between Houthi rebels and a Saudi-led military coalition began in 2015. Since then, the country has been tormented by cyclical fighting as well as shortages of food, water, fuel, medicine, and other supplies. The United Nations estimates that 24 million people, equal to roughly 75 percent of the population, need humanitarian aid. 

Siddiquey said the recent fuel shortages are a weaponization of the Yemeni economy, and urged warring parties to restore normal fuel imports. 

The conflict, however, has no resolution in sight. According to UN data, September was the deadliest month this year for civilians, with 388 people reportedly killed or injured in conflict-related fighting. 


Past Circle of Blue reporting on Yemen: 

HotSpots H2O: Special Report on Yemen’s Water Crisis
HotSpots H2O: Water, Food Shortages Deadlier than Violence in Embattled Yemen


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