© UNICEF/Karin Schermbrucke – Students wash their hands at a newly built handwashing station at a primary school in Pemba District, Zambia.
New York, USA, March 20, 2023-/African Media Agency(AMA)/A new analysis from the UN children’s organization UNICEF shows that some 190 million children in 10 African countries are most at risk from a confluence of three water-related threats: inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); related diseases; and climate risks.
The study, released on Monday ahead of the historic UN water conferenceassessed household access to WASH services, the burden of WASH-attributable deaths among children under the age of five, and exposure to climate and environmental risks, showing where children pose the greatest threat and where investments in solutions are badly needed to prevent unnecessary deaths.
“Africa is facing a water disaster. As climate and water-related shocks escalate globally, nowhere else in the world are risks more severe for children,” he said. UNICEF Program Director Sanjay Wijesekera.
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“Devastating storms, floods and historic droughts are already destroying amenities and homes, contaminating water supplies, creating hunger crises and spreading disease. But as challenging as the current circumstances are, without urgent action the future could be much bleaker.”
© UNICEF/Shehzad Noorani – Displaced children wash their hands outside a public toilet in a camp in Pakistan’s Sindh province.
Crises exacerbated by armed conflict
The triple threat proved to be most acute in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia, making West and Central Africa one of the most water-insecure and climate-sensitive regions in the world . -affected regions, according to the analysis. Many of the hardest hit countries, particularly in the Sahel, are also facing instability and armed conflict, further worsening children’s access to clean water and sanitation.
In the 10 hotspots, nearly one-third of children do not have access to basic basic water at home, and two-thirds lack basic sanitation. A quarter of children have no choice but to practice open defecation. Hand hygiene is also limited: three-quarters of children cannot wash their hands due to a lack of soap and water at home.
As a result, these countries also bear the heaviest burden of infant mortality from diseases caused by insufficient WASH, such as diarrhoea. For example, six out of ten have had to deal with cholera outbreaks in the past year. Worldwide, more than 1,000 children under the age of five die every day from WASH-related diseases, with about two in five concentrated in these 10 countries alone.
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© WHO/Rob Holden – Accelerated action is needed to ensure safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene for all.
Vulnerable to climate threats
These hotspots are also among the top 25 percent of 163 countries worldwide with the highest risk of exposure to climate and environmental threats. Higher temperatures – which accelerate pathogen replication – are rising 1.5 times faster than the global average in parts of West and Central Africa. Groundwater levels are also falling, forcing some communities to dig wells twice as deep as they were a decade ago. At the same time, rainfall has become more erratic and intense, leading to flooding that contaminates scarce water resources.
All 10 countries are also classified as vulnerable or extremely vulnerable by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), with the tensions of armed conflict in some countries threatening to reverse progress towards safe water and sanitation.
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Burkina Faso, for example, has seen an increase in attacks on water supplies as a tactic to displace communities. In 2022, 58 water points were attacked and more than 830,000 people – more than half of them children – lost access to safe drinking water in the past year.
Distributed by African Media Agency (AMA) on behalf of UN NEWS.
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Source: African Media Agency (AMA)