In Asia, polluted water kills more children than war

UNICEF examined 16 countries, including Myanmar, Afghanistan and Yemen. Between 2014 and 2016, 85,000 children died from diarrhea compared to 31,000 children killed in violence. Iraq and Syria bucked the trend.

New York (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Children under age 15 are almost three times more likely to die from diseases caused by the lack of clean water and sanitation than from war, this according to a report by the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF)

The research, which was released today, World Water Day, focused on unsafe water and sanitation on children in 16 countries embroiled in 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,” the report says.

Citing World Health Organisation (WHO) data, the UN children’s agency 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.

Diarrhea-related illnesses are the second leading cause of death for all children under 5, as they cause dehydration by depleting the victims’ body fluids, this according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Children are particularly vulnerable since they lose fluids more quickly than adults.

In Yemen, where one of the worst cholera outbreaks in recent history is still unfolding, a third of the cases involved children under age 5, the WHO reports.

The UNICEF study noted a few exceptions. In Iraq and Syria, children under 15 were more likely to die from violence, as were children under age 5 in Syria and Libya.