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EghtesadOnline: Lack of sustainable and long-term planning to combat water shortage can lead to serious consequences, the UNICEF representative to Iran said.

“Located in an arid and semi-arid region, Iran has grappled with acute water paucity for decades and absence of planning to address this major issue can adversely affect many people, especially children in vulnerable regions,” Mandeep O'Brien who was speaking at the closing ceremony of a water drawing festival in Tehran last week was quoted as saying by IRNA.

Referring to the appalling consequences of being deprived access to safe water, she said at least 700 kids die every day in the world due to fatal water-borne diseases that mostly strikes children under 5.

“Despite the dire need to uphold hygienic protocols to fight Covid-19, the number of people who are literally deprived of basic facilities to wash their hands with soap and water has exceeded three million,” O’Brien said.

When availability of safe, sufficient and affordable water is limited, different aspects of life namely health, nutrition, sanitation and education are detrimentally affected and this has significant consequences for the realization of other human rights (especially among women and the disabled), the UN official said.


Water Is a Human Right

Availability of and access to water and sanitation are recognized by the United Nations as human rights, reflecting the fundamental nature of these basics in every person’s life. 

Under international human rights laws, water is protected as a human right. However, in the 1948 Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the 1966 International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, and the 1966 International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, water is not explicitly mentioned as a human right. 

It was, nevertheless, implied through other human rights, such as the right to life, right to an adequate standard of living, and the right to health.

“In June 2020, UNICEF and the Energy Ministry signed a joint work plan on improving Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) infrastructure for children of Iran, especially during emergencies,” she added.

Over the past 21 years, Mandeep has served in the UN, across three agencies, both in the field (South and East Asia, Africa, Middle East) and headquarters.

She is from India and was appointed to Iran in 2019. Prior to her current posting, since 2016 Mandeep was deputy director for the Public Partnerships Division in UNICEF Headquarters, New York, responsible for providing strategic leadership and oversight of UNICEF’s global engagement in UN inter-agency and intergovernmental affairs, including the General Assembly and Economic and Social Council, resource mobilization and multilateral partnerships with international financial institutions.


UNICEF Support Programs

This first ever WASH partnership between the two sides is planned to enhance the capacity of the Energy Ministry in efficient management of demand and developing effective resource management techniques in certain districts, to best prepare for and respond to emergency situations with a focus on children’s needs.

UNICEF supported the ministry in 2019 by procuring water and sewage related equipment to rehabilitate the damaged WASH infrastructure in flood affected provinces. It rehabilitated the WASH facilities in 132 schools in the flood affected and deprived areas of Lorestan, Golestan, Khuzestan and Ilam provinces; and supported the government in their response to the 2020 flood in Sistan-Baluchestan Province by ensuring access to safe drinking water in 45 flood-hit zones in this under-privileged area.

According to Energy Ministry data, the average Iranian uses 250 liters of water per day, while per capita water consumption in metropolises such as Tehran exceeds 300 liters. Daily water use in the capital of 12 million people is reaching 3.6 million cubic meters.

As the world entered the 21st century, the World Water Council said in a report: “There is a water crisis today. But the crisis is not about having too little water to satisfy our needs. It is a crisis of managing water so badly that billions of people - and the environment - suffer badly."

Water demand management is a new frontier to achieving a long-term balance between available supply and its use for human development.

There are other effective measures to alleviate the water crisis some of which are mass media campaign, timely detection of seepage and repairs, establishing efficient regional water markets, penalties for waste and excessive use and privatization.

Meeting the swelling demand from existing and limited resources is a titanic struggle, particularly in water-stressed regions of which there are far too many in Iran.

Iran’s central plateau, encompassing the provinces of Yazd, Isfahan, Kerman and Fars, is reaching a point where the quantity of renewable resources of fresh water cannot meet demand and is impeding economic development. 



Iran UNICEF water resources