“Protect water in war” pledge is due

Governments at the World Water Forum in Istanbul will pledge to defend water resources during armed conflicts, the head of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) water unit, Robert Mardini, told Reuters. Failure to provide clean water violates international humanitarian law, he said, and puts already vulnerable people at further risk of potentially fatal water-borne diseases.


Mardini said governments participating in this week’s conference have agreed to include a pledge in a joint declaration this weekend to “respect international law providing protection for water resources, infrastructure and the environment in times of armed conflict”.

“Under international humanitarian law,” Mardini said, “parties engaged in conflict must ensure that the provision of essential services, which includes water, is not interrupted for civilian populations. The problem is not a lack of law but that the law isn’t applied at the height of the conflict.” Some 750 million people in conflict zones lack access to clean water, he noted.


According to United Nations figures, a quarter of the 1.2 billion people globally who lack clean drinking water and 15% of the 2.6 billion without proper sanitation are in war zones.


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