The Government of the Netherlands  and UNICEF sealed on Sunday at a signing ceremony in Sana’a the donation of US$ 5.7 million in support of the ‘Extension of Water and Sanitation Services in Rural Communities’ in Yemen. In a statement, UNICEF Yemen said that the project which will be managed by UNICEF  will cover a two year period from 2012-2014 and will focus on Hodeidah, Taiz and Ibb governorates, which have the highest levels of water scarcity and malnutrition in the country, adding it will benefit over 165,900 persons in 41 rural areas within the three governorates. The project aims to contribute to the improvement of drinking water sources, sanitation facilities and general health and hygiene conditions through the rehabilitation of the water supply systems,  household pit latrines and promote open defecation free status in 20 selected communities. "An estimated 70,000 children aged less than five die annually in Yemen from easily preventable diseases", says UNICEF Representative Geert Cappelaere. "The major causes of these child deaths in order of magnitude are diarrhea, pneumonia, measles, low birth weight, prematurity and asphyxia. The top three directly and/or indirectly linked to water, sanitation and hygiene practices. Over 50% of these deaths have malnutrition as an underlying exacerbating factor with diarrhea as a major contributor. Tackling access to improved water and sanitation is therefore an urgent priority to ensure the wellbeing of the children of Yemen". Earlier this year the Dutch Government pledged €3 million towards humanitarian efforts in Yemen. Yemen is one of the most water-deficient Arab countries, with declining freshwater resources due to over-pumping of aquifers. Water demand is growing due to population growth and increased per capita water consumption.