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Fears of a water shortage in Jordan surges amid coronavirus lockdown

March 23, 2020 at 2:13 pm

Security forces order to stay home to people after state of emergency declaration as a precaution against new type of coronavirus (COVID-19) in Rabat, Morocco on 21 March 2020. [Jalal Morchidi/Anadolu Agency]

Complaints and concerns over water shortages rose by 58 per cent in Jordan during the first day of a nationwide coronavirus curfew, according to a report by Reuters.

Spokesperson for the Ministry of Water and Irrigation Omar Salameh said that increased demand as a result of the nationwide coronavirus shutdown has compounded issues of climate change, water theft and overuse which have made Jordan the fifth most water-stressed nation in the world.

The arid nation receives less than 50 millimetres of rainfall per year, with some 60 per cent of the country’s water supply being pumped from aquifers beneath the earth’s surface.

A rapidly growing population, which has swelled with refugees from neighbouring countries, including 660,000 Syrians who have fled over the border from civil war since 2011, has stretched a waning supply to breaking point.

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To combat severe water insecurity, municipal water is distributed to urban areas once a week, and to less accessible rural areas, once every two weeks.

Salameh said “a lot of the calls we received were from areas that were not yet due for their distribution… they wanted to make sure their water supply is coming”.

Jordan officially started a nationwide coronavirus lockdown on Saturday in attempts to combat the spread of coronavirus.

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In strict measures, the government ordered all shops to close and all people to stay off the streets until at least Tuesday, when plans for specific shopping times are set to be announced.

The announcement, made at 4pm on Friday, caused a rush on bakeries and supermarkets, but it remained unclear what those who required food could do.

In response, Jordan’s Ministry of Agriculture announced on Saturday plans to secure food supplies.

The ministry noted that 80 per cent of demand for lamb is provided by local farms, while dairy products, olive oil, vegetables and fruit can also be provided by local producers.

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Ayman Salti, director of marketing and foreign trade at the ministry, told the Jordan News Agency that “the situation is comfortable regarding these supplies” adding that “they can cover long periods of no less than three months, and up to eight months in some sectors.”

Jordan has confirmed 85 cases and has been using 34 hotels to quarantine travellers who arrived before the country’s borders were sealed on Tuesday.

The country has implemented some of the harshest measures in the world to combat the spread of the virus, including up to a year in jail for those who violate the lockdown.

According to Bloomberg, 392 people have already been arrested for violating the curfew.