A new UNICEF report marks World Water Day with a grim warning that one in four children will live with water scarcity by 2040.
The report, Thirsting for a Future: Water and Children in a Changing Climate, was published in March of this year. It predicts that as the demand for water increases through population growth as well as increases in agricultural and industrial needs for water, water stress and a strain on water supplies will ensue.
The result is that in just over twenty years some 600 million children – one in four across the world – will be living in areas of extreme water stress and with high competition for water. Inevitably, the more disadvantaged will suffer the most and conflict can also disrupt access to safe drinking water, as well as droughts and climate change.
The Guardian reports that 36 countries across the world are suffering from a very high level of water stress. Conflict and drought in Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Sudan and Yemen has brought water scarcity to deadly levels. In Ethiopia UNICEF says nine million people will be without safe drinking water this year, in the other four countries 1.4 million children are at imminent risk of malnutrition.
There is progress being made, however, and the report highlights solutions, policy responses and case studies from UNICEF’s work safeguarding children’s access to safe water and sanitation.
In particular, addressing climate change will stop further areas suffering from drought or flooding that can bring about a shortage of safe drinking water. Sustainable growth in cities and industry is needed to maintain water supplies and not create an additional strain on resources.
Sustainable growth is one of the main aims of the Gardiner Foundation, where we believe that microinvestment in local businesses can sustainably lift individuals, families and communities out of poverty. Some of these businesses involve innovative solutions to the greatest threats facing the community, including water scarcity and competition.