A convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) – poses the greatest threat to 190 million children in ten African nations. related ailments; and climate risks, according to a brand-new UNICEF study.
The analysis found that Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia were the most affected by the triple threat. As a result, West and Central Africa is one of the world’s regions with the least access to water and the most affected by climate change. Children’s access to clean water and sanitation is further harmed by instability and armed conflict in many of the worst-hit nations, particularly in the Sahel.
Africa is in the midst of a water crisis. Sanjay Wijesekera, UNICEF Director of Programs, stated, “While climate and water-related shocks are increasing globally, nowhere else in the world do the risks compound as severely for children.” Facilities and homes are already being destroyed, water resources are being tainted, hunger crises are being created, and disease is being spread by devastating storms, floods, and historic droughts. However, despite the difficulty of the situation right now, if nothing is done immediately, the future may be even worse.”
The global analysis looked at household access to WASH services, the number of deaths caused by WASH among children under the age of five, and exposure to climate and environmental hazards. It found that areas where children face the greatest danger and need the most investment in solutions to prevent unnecessary deaths were highlighted.
Nearly one third of children in the ten hotspots do not have access to even basic water supply at home, and two thirds do not have access to basic sanitation services. One quarter of children are forced to use open urination. Hand cleanliness is additionally restricted, with 3/4 of youngsters incapable to clean up in light of absence of water and cleanser at home.
As a result, diseases like diarrhoea that are brought on by inadequate WASH also kill more children in these nations. For instance, six of the ten have experienced cholera epidemics in the past year. More than 1,000 children under the age of five worldwide die every day from diseases related to WASH, with approximately two out of every five children dying in these ten countries alone.
Additionally, these hotspots are among the top 25% of the 163 nations in the world that are most vulnerable to climate and environmental threats. In some regions of West and Central Africa, temperatures that accelerate pathogen replication are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average. Additionally, groundwater levels are decreasing, necessitating the drilling of wells twice as deep as a decade ago in some communities. Floods that contaminate scarce water supplies have become more common as a result of rainfall that is becoming more erratic and intense.
The stresses of armed conflict in some of the countries in the OECD’s top ten hotspots are threatening to reverse progress toward safe drinking water and sanitation in all ten of them. As a means of displacing communities, for instance, attacks on water facilities have increased in Burkina Faso. In 2022, there were attacks on 58 water points, up from 21 in 2021 and three in 2020. As a result, in the past year, more than 830,000 people, the majority of whom are children, lost access to clean water.
The new study comes before the UN 2023 Water Conference, which will be held in New York from March 22 to 24. For the first time in 46 years, world leaders, relevant organizations, and other participants will meet to review progress toward ensuring that everyone has access to clean water and sanitation. UNICEF is requesting at the conference:
- rapid expansion of investment in the sector, including financing for the global climate.
- bolstering communities’ and the WASH sector’s climate resilience.
- In WASH programs and policies, giving the most vulnerable communities priority.
- enhancing capacities, coordination, and systems for providing water and sanitation services that are both efficient and accountable.
investing in the key accelerators and putting into action the UN-Water SDG6 Global Acceleration Framework.
For families, the loss of a child is devastating. According to Wijesekera, “the pain is intensified when it is preventable and caused by the lack of basic necessities like safe drinking water, toilets, and soap,” which many people take for granted. In addition to safeguarding children’s health now, investing in climate-resilient water, sanitation, and hygiene services ensures a sustainable future for future generations.”