Abuja, March 23, 2017 (TNE):The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says nearly 600 million children, or one in four children worldwide, will live in areas with extremely limited water resources by 2040.
This is according to a March 2017 report released by the organisation, as the world marked 2017 World Water Day on March 22.
The report, “Thirsting for a Future: Water and Children in a Changing Climate”, examined threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water.
It also looked at the effects of climate change and the threats it posed in coming years.
It explained that factors that could affect the quality and availability of water as well as sanitation systems included warmer temperatures, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice.
It listed that other factors to include industrialisation and urbanisation which enhance population growth, increased higher demand for water and higher consumption.
“Conflicts in many parts of the world also threaten children’s access to safe water.
“All of these factors force children to use unsafe water, which exposes them to potentially deadly diseases like cholera and diarrhoea.
“Over 800 children under the age of five die every day from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
“The world is on the brink of a crisis, as the combination of water stress and climate change is creating a deadly outlook for children.”
The UNICEF report also noted that many children in drought-affected areas spent more hours every day collecting water and missing out on school, adding that girls were especially vulnerable to attacks during these times.
“Globally, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water every day,” the report noted.
According to the report, 36 countries are currently facing extremely high levels of water stress.
It added that up to 663 million people globally did not have access to adequate water sources and 946 million people practise open defecation.
UNICEF, in the report, noted that the threats were not inevitable if countries took action now to protect children from the worst impacts of climate change.
It recommended that countries at the community, state, national and global levels should develop resilient water and sanitation services, particularly in areas that will be hardest hit by climate change.
It urged communities to create more resilient water and sanitation systems by diversifying sources of drinking water or increasing storage capacity.
“In areas prone to flooding and extreme weather, communities can work together to reinforce safe sanitation behaviours to deter open defecation, and work with local markets to establish affordable and resilient sanitation solutions.”
At the state level, it recommended that countries develop a strong understanding of available water resources to inform management and planning in order to prioritise access to safe water for the most vulnerable children.
At the national level, it called on governments to have policies in place 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.”
UNICEF, in the report, noted that a concerted effort was needed at the global level to enhance information-sharing and advocacy and harmonise action. (TNE)