Amidst the Covid pandemic, there could be a global ‘water crisis’—UNICEF

Amidst the Covid pandemic, there could be a global ‘water crisis’—UNICEF

Drought in Southeast Asia may become even more frequent and intense if countries do not take steps to reduce its impact, according to a joint study from the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). File photo shows a farmer’s son at the family’s drought-hit rice field in Laos in 2010, when a severe drought in Southeast Asia and southern China caused the Mekong River to drop to a 50-year low. (Photo courtesy by Agence France-Presse)

Sourced from the net by Tracy Cabrera

GENEVA, SWITZERLAND — Today, about 1.42 billion people—including 450 million children—live in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability and freshwater that is merely 3 percent of the world’s water resources is growing increasingly—and rapidly—scarce.
According to the United Nations International Children’s Educational Fund (UNICEF), this could be blamed on decades of misuse, poor management and over-extraction of groundwater and contamination of freshwater supplies which all have exacerbated water stress.

At the same time, demand for water is rising due to rapid population growth, urbanization and increasing water needs from a range of sectors, the UN body added.

“Climate change and extreme weather events are compounding water stress. The resulting impact on children’s health, development, and safety threaten the significant progress made in child survival and sustainable development over the past several decades. It is putting children’s lives at risk today and threatens future generations,” UNICEF executive director Henrietta Fore underscored in a statement.

She outlined what drives water insecurity, the impact on children, and the actions we need to take now to achieve water security for all.

Globally, more than 1.42 billion people, including 450 million children live in areas of high, or extremely high, water vulnerability, according to a new analysis released by UNICEF. This means that 1 in 5 children worldwide does not have enough water to meet their everyday needs.

The analysis, part of the UN’s Water Security for All initiative, identifies areas where physical water scarcity risks overlap with poor water service levels. Communities living in these areas depend on surface water, unimproved sources, or water which can take more than 30 minutes to collect.

“The world’s water crisis is not simply coming, it is here, and climate change will only make it worse,” Fore revealed.

“Children are the biggest victims. When wells dry-up, children are the ones missing school to fetch water. When droughts diminish food supplies, children suffer from malnutrition and stunting. When floods hit, children fall ill from waterborne illnesses. And when water resources decline, children cannot wash their hands to fight off diseases,” she lamented.

UN data shows that children in more than 80 countries live in areas with high or extremely high water vulnerability. Eastern and Southern Africa has the highest proportion of children living in such areas, with more than half of children—58 percent—facing difficulty accessing sufficient water every day. It is followed by West and Central Africa (31 percent), South Asia (25 percent), and the Middle East (23 percent). South Asia is home to the largest number of children living in areas of high or extremely high water vulnerability—more than 155 million children.

Children in 37 ‘hotspot’ countries face especially dire circumstances in terms of absolute numbers, the proportions of children affected, and where global resources, support and urgent action must be mobilized. This list includes Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Niger, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sudan, Tanzania and Yemen.

Demand for water continues to increase dramatically while resources are dwindling. In addition to rapid population growth, urbanization, water misuse and mismanagement, climate change and extreme weather events reduce available quantities of safe water, exacerbating water stress. Based on a UNICEF report from 2017, almost 1 in 4 children globally will live in areas of extremely high water stress by 2040.

While the impact of water scarcity can be felt by all, no one suffers more than the most vulnerable children. Children and families living in vulnerable communities face the double-edged sword of coping with high water scarcity levels while having the lowest water services, making access to sufficient water especially susceptible to climate shocks and extreme events.

In response, UNICEF launched the Water Security for All initiative to ensure every child has access to sustainable and climate-resilient water services. The initiative aims to mobilize resources, partnerships, innovation and global response to identified hotspots where the need for safe, resilient and sustainable water, sanitation, and hygiene services is the greatest and most urgent.

UNICEF is now working to provide safe and affordable drinking water services—access to safe and affordable water services that are sustainable, close to home and managed professionally. Aside from this, the UN agency is likewise pushing to provide climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services to communities and these include water sanitation and hygiene services that withstand climate shocks operate using low carbon energy sources and strengthen communities’ resilience and adaptive capacities.

Moreover, early action to prevent water scarcity is also being done with resource assessments, sustainable water withdrawal, efficient use, and early warning and early preventative measures being set in place.

Finally, UNICEF is initiating water cooperation for peace and stability which will support communities and key stakeholders so that equitable management of water, sanitation and hygiene services, increased social cohesion, political stability and peace is reached—and these are targeted in conflict zones to prevent attacks on water and sanitation infrastructure and personnel.

“We have to act now both to address the water crisis and to prevent it from getting any worse. We can only achieve water security for every child through innovation, investment and collaboration, and by ensuring services are sustainable and resilient to climate shocks. For our children and our planet, we have to act,” Fore advised in conclusion. (AI/MTVN)

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