More than 4 million people in Lebanon could face a critical shortage of safe drinking water or be cut off completely in the coming days due to a severe fuel crisis, UNICEF warned in a report released on Saturday. If the public water system collapses, people would be forced to turn to private suppliers, and the price of water could triple. In July, UNICEF forecasted that 71% of Lebanese could run of water over the course of the summer. “If 4 million people are forced to resort to unsafe and costly sources of water, public health and hygiene will be compromised, and Lebanon could see an increase in waterborne diseases, in addition to the surge in COVID-19 cases,” UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore said in a statement released on the Twitter platform. The water crisis is linked to a fuel shortage and widespread blackouts, which are all symptoms of Lebanon’s crippling economic and political crises. These, in turn, are results of widespread corruption and mismanagement, exacerbated by global warming and the coronavirus pandemic. UNICEF said $40 million was required annually to keep the country’s water system operational, for needs such as fuel, chlorine, spare parts and maintenance.
Also on Saturday, the Lebanese president, central bank governor and other officials decided to change the exchange rate used for the pricing of petroleum products. The result will be a reduction in government fuel subsidies and a doubling in prices, which the government hopes will ease the nationwide fuel shortage.