Clean, accessible water is critical to human health, a healthy environment, poverty reduction, a sustainable economy, and peace and security. Yet throughout many regions of Lebanon, the population does not have sufficient access to clean water. On World Water Day, we look to Wadi el Jamous in northern Lebanon where residents are set to be connected to high-quality water resources for the first time, through a project funded by the European Union and implemented by UNICEF.
Wadi Al Jamous resident Khadija, on the water access challenges in the village
One of Lebanon's most deprived districts, the governorate of Akkar sits in the north of the country and is home to more than 500,000 vulnerable Lebanese living below the poverty line, as well as more than a quarter of a million Syrian and Palestinian refugees. The main aim of the European Union support has been to improve sustainable water resources’ availability in Wadi el Jamous, especially after rainfall scarcity over recent years has led to a severe drought.
Village resident and mother of eight young children, Khadija Akkari, has lived in Wadi el Jamous for thirty years. "We've never had water piped to our home. Every five days we have more than 1,000 litres delivered by tanker and now, more and more often, in summer, the town's old spring runs dry and there is nothing left for us”.
A lack of access to clean water can negatively affect the economic opportunities of women and girls. They are often the primary managers of natural resources, particularly for household use and small-scale agriculture, and are critical change agents in sustainable water management practices.
Repair and installation of water infrastructure comes at a vital time in Wadi Al Jamous
UNICEF's Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene teams are coordinating the repair and installation of new water infrastructure destined to benefit hundreds of Lebanon's most vulnerable families. In this era of COVID-19, water has never before been more critical to our health. The project’s drilling of a new 700-metre deep well, together with new facilities, including the construction of a booster station, chlorinator and a 3 km long lift line to the existing reservoir have secured the future needs of the village, currently home to 4,500 Lebanese and 1,800 Syrian refugees.
“The new well and pumping station will change our lives” says Khadija. “Finally, we'll have water; and water is life". The days of spending money she and her husband can ill afford to receive water through the environmentally harmful practice of trucking water to their home are over. A simple subscription to their local branch of water establishment ensures a regular supply of clean, fresh, living-sustaining water.
"Connecting Wadi el Jamous to a supply of freshwater gives hope to our people", expressed Sheikh Khodor Abdelkader Akkari, the village's mayor. "For some of them, it is the only glimpse of positivity in what is becoming an increasingly harsh existence", he adds.
Ever closer partnership in the water sector
The support of the European Union to Lebanon's water infrastructure continues a long-standing partnership between the EU, UNICEF, and the water establishments. It ensures public access to water resources now and for the future. For Khaled Obeid, Director General of North Lebanon Water Establishment, the work completed in Wadi el Jamous heralds a new beginning for the village. "The facilities created here are state-of-the-art. They will deliver water security to the village and its residents for many years to come", he says.