World Water Day: By 2040, one in four children will be living with water scarcity

By 2040, an estimated quarter of the population of children – 600 million – worldwide will be living in locations under extreme water-stress with severely limited water resources as a direct consequence of climate change, the United Nations (UN) has cautioned.

According to research the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) released in honour of World Water Day, 22nd March 2017, it is the poorest and most disadvantaged who will suffer the utmost.

Already, conflict and drought are accelerating dangerous water scarcity in regions of Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, Ethiopia, and South Sudan. This year in Ethiopia alone, UNICEF estimates that upwards of 9 million people will be unable to access safe, drinkable, water. Around 1.4 million children in Yemen, Nigeria, Somalia, and South Sudan are confronted with the impending possibility of death from acute malnutrition.

The report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and Children in a Changing Climate, investigated the various dangers to the lives and wellbeing of children brought about by the reduced sources of water and how climate change will aggravate them.

One of the report’s authors, Nicholas Rees, commented that as demographic movements and industrialisation raise levels of consumptions, certain regions in the Middle East and South Asia will be notably affected. “Where demand is extremely high then water stress will increase. It will go up in areas of rapid urbanisation, and we are already seeing that throughout sub-Saharan Africa and Asia,” he said.


In North Darfur, Sudan, a woman fills bottles held by a young boy with water. Photo credit: Ashraf Shazly/AFP/Getty Images

Another report released on World Water Day indicated that Iran is wrestling with an unprecedented water crunch, and is facing a far bigger menace in the form of its environmental challenges rather than its issues with terrorism or regional political clashes. The research study, carried out by Small Media, a non-governmental organisation (NGO) based in London, concluded that the water paucity could convert great swaths of the country into nigh-unliveable spaces in the decades to come.

“Iran is facing a water crisis that is unparalleled in its modern history. Lakes and rivers are dying, droughts are increasing in frequency, and even Iran’s deepest groundwater reserves are being sucked dry by Iran’s growing population and its thirsty agricultural sector,” the report showed. “Resultant soil erosion is accelerating the destruction of forest ranges across the country, and contributing to a sharp increase in dust storms and air pollution.”

Ecosystems are crumbling, and some species of wildlife now teeter on the verge of extinction. Iran’s largest lake, Lake Urmia, is an ecological landscape acknowledged and recognised by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO). But the reports states that the ecosphere has dwindled to a mere 12 per cent of its original size in the 1970s, “owing to frequent droughts, and aggressive, poorly implemented water management policies upstream.”

The UN’s report goes on to state that 36 nations around the world are confronted with exceedingly high levels of water stress, which develops when demand far outstrips the renewable supply of water available. Surging sea levels, rising temperatures, melting ice, and a growing number of floods and droughts, as well as sanitation systems all have an impact on the availability and quality of water.

But the repercussions of climate change on water is avoidable, the report continues, and it went on to present a list of recommendations drafted to help rein in the effect climate change has on children’s lives. The list includes suggestions such as communities banding together to expand their current water sources, and calling on the governments of various nations to make accessibility to clean, safe, drinkable water to susceptible children one of their top concerns, over other water needs.

“We want to reduce child deaths. That is the goal. But we are not going to end child deaths without addressing environmental threats that they face,” Rees said in an interview with The Guardian. “We focus on their susceptibility to disease but if we don’t also address the broad environmental risks we are going to fall short. Climate change is often felt through a change in the water – whether it’s a flood, rising sea levels or something else – and the effect of a changing climate is often felt by children through water first.”

On Tuesday, WaterAid released their conclusions about how vulnerable communities in the rural areas grappling to access clean, potable, water find their burden intensified by climate change and resulting severe weather occurrences.

A WaterAid survey ranked India, housing nearly a fifth of the globe’s total population, and one of the world’s booming economies, first in having the greatest number of citizens – 63 million – living in the rural areas who do not have access to clean, unpolluted water.

As for those who are responding to the threat, Paraguay has made the biggest stride in bringing water to those living in the countryside. Upwards of 94 per cent of the population dwelling in the backwoods now have access to clean, safe, water, compared to the 51.6 per cent noted in 2000.

But other countries lacking the infrastructure to get clean water to the rural population are Mozambique, Madagascar, and Papua New Guinea.

WaterAid chief executive Barbara Frost has stated that many nations who are ranked in the report are frequently battered by harsh droughts, floods, and cyclones. “Rural communities – which are marginalised by their remote location and a continued lack of funding for basic services – often bear the greatest burden of these events,” she said.

WaterAid is urging leaders on both international and national levels to carry out promises made to meet the SDGs, which also includes a goal to provide accessibility to clean, safe, water, and sanitation.

Source: The Guardian