UNICEF Projects Inadequate Water For 1.8 Billion Children. Unicef is projecting a dangerous outlook for children. The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, Wednesday called on various stakeholders to intensify action towards making portable water accessible to the larger global population. This is as the Water, Sanitation and Health, WASH specialist, of the UNICEF, Mr. Amose Kudzala, has disclosed that over billion people globally lack access to clean drinking.
The combination of water stress and climate change creates a dangerous outlook for children. By 2040, close to 600 million children—or 1 in 4 children worldwide—will be living in areas with extremely limited water resources, and will thus be predisposed to a higher risk of death, disease, and malnutrition, projects a Unicef report launched on World Water Day.
Titled ‘Thirsting for a Future: water and children in a changing climate,’ the report, which is the third in a series issued by Unicef on the impacts of climate change on the lives of children, calls for immediate action to plan for water stress, and to safeguard access to safe water and sanitation. It also offers recommendations on how to minimize these impacts in a bid to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals on climate action.
According to the report, 36 countries are currently facing extremely high levels of water stress, which occurs when demand for water exceeds the renewable supply available. Warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems.
The poorest and most vulnerable children will be most impacted by an increase in water stress, the report says, as millions of them already live in areas with low access to safe water and sanitation. When children have no choice but to use unsafe water, they are exposed to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea. Many children in drought-affected areas spend hours every day collecting water, missing out on a chance to go to school. Girls are especially vulnerable to attack during these times.
The report also notes that up to 663 million people globally do not have access to adequate water sources and 946 million people practice open defecation; over 800 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene; and globally, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water every day.
The impact of climate change on water sources is not inevitable if we act now, Unicef says. In this context, the report concludes with a series of recommendations that can be taken at a community, state, national and global levels.
At the national level, governments need to make policies to plan for future changes in water supply and demand, and to adapt to climate risks. This includes carrying out climate risk assessments and compiling data on the impacts of water stress and climate change on water and sanitation services. Risks should be integrated into national water and sanitation policies, strategies and plans, and high-risk populations should be targeted with investment, the report recommends.
At a sub-national level, a strong understanding of available water resources and patterns of use is needed to inform management and planning. In some areas, it will include investing in the protection of river basins and systematic testing of water quality. Above all, it means prioritizing the most vulnerable children’s access to safe water above other water needs to maximize social and health outcomes.
At the community level, action can be taken to create more-resilient water and sanitation systems. This might involve diversifying sources of drinking water or increasing storage capacity. In areas prone to extreme weather, communities can work together to reinforce safe sanitation behaviours to deter open defecation, and to work with local markets to establish affordable and resilient sanitation solutions
At the global level, more data and evidence are needed to inform global advocacy efforts. Governments, NGOs, United Nations agencies, private sector actors, and civil society need to harmonize and align in global action.
Population growth, increased water consumption, and higher demand for water largely due to industrialization and urbanisation are draining water resources worldwide and also in Nigeria.
In an effort to build resilience of communities to better cope with the future risks of water scarcity, Unicef NIGERIA is working with the federal and provincial governments and NGO partners to build and rehabilitate facilities that can ensure efficient management of water supply. The sector partners also collaborate to raise awareness on the issue. Moreover, Unicef supports the government on all levels to ensure national and provincial water and sanitation policies and strategies make provisions for risk informed decisions in order to secure reliable water supply services in communities, households, schools and health centres.
The report sees climate change as not just an environmental situation, but also a situation of children. One of the most effective ways to protect children in the face of climate change is to safeguard their access to safe water and sanitation. Only then, can we begin to create a brighter future, for every child.