One in four children worldwide will live in areas with extremely limited water resources by 2040, the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) has predicted.
The UNICEF Chief of Communications in Abuja, Ms Doune Porter, made this known on Wednesday in a report to commemorate the 2017 World Water Day.
The report is entitled: “ Thirsting for a Future: Water and Children in a Changing Climate.“
According to the World Health organisation (WHO), World Water Day is held annually on March 22.
“It is a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.
“Freshwater was recommended at the 1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED).
“The United Nations General Assembly responded by designating March 22, 1993 as the first World Water Day,‘’ WHO said in its online publication.
Porter said that children would be most affected as climate change worsened the ongoing water crisis.
“The report looks at the threats to children’s lives and wellbeing caused by depleted sources of safe water and the ways climate change will intensify these risks in coming years.
“Population growth, increased water consumption and higher demand for water largely due to industrialisation and urbanisation are draining water resources worldwide.
“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.
“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 poorest and most vulnerable children will be most impacted by an increase in water stress, as millions of them already live in areas with low access to safe water and sanitation, “ she said.
Porter said 260 million children around the world were living in areas where the risk of floods was extremely high and open defecation was widespread, threatening to contaminate water sources with human waste.
She said that no fewer than 800 children under the age of five died every day around the world from diarrhoea linked to inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
“Globally, women and girls spend 200 million hours collecting water every day, “ Porter said.
Also, the UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, was quoted in the report as saying that this crisis would only grow if we do not take collective action now.
“Water is elemental; without it, nothing can grow.
“But around the world, millions of children lack access to safe water, endangering their lives, undermining their health and jeopardising their futures,’’ Lake said in the report.
He said that in Nigeria, the greatest challenge was the availability of physical infrastructure to harness rainfall and ground water effectively.
Lake said that there were huge variations in rainfall between the Northern and Southern Nigeria, making it all the more important to better plan and manage water resources to minimise the impact of floods and drought.
He said that governments need to plan for changes in water availability and demand in the coming years.
“Above all, it means prioritising the most vulnerable children’s access to safe water above other water needs to maximise social and health outcomes.
“Climate risks should be integrated into all water and sanitation-related policies and services, and investments should target high-risk populations.
“Businesses need to work with communities to prevent contamination and depletion of safe water sources.
“Communities themselves should explore ways to diversify water sources and to increase their capacity to store water safely,“ Lake said.
He said that in a changing climate, there must be changes in the way government worked to reach those who were most vulnerable.
“One of the most effective ways we can do that is safeguarding their access to safe water,’’ Lake said.