Triple Burden Of WASH-Related Threats Revealed
The UN 2023 Water Conference has just come to a close in New York, taking place this year between March 22nd and 24th, and to mark the occasion a new report from Unicef has examined the triple burden of threats relating to unsafe water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) at the intersection of access to such services, associated diseases and climate crisis pressure.
Official figures now show that some 600 million children around the world still don’t have access to safely managed drinking water, while 1.1 billion lack safely managed sanitation and a further 689 million don’t have access to basic hygiene services.
What’s more, 149 million children still have to practise open defecation, with WASH issues still responsible for the deaths of approximately 1,000 children under the age of five each day.
And the challenge of extending WASH services is now being affected by water scarcity, flooding and cyclones, all of which are being exacerbated by the climate emergency.
This new report looks into the burden of disease as a result of unsafe WASH practices to identify which places face the biggest problems, with ten countries – all of which are in sub-Saharan Africa – now facing this triple burden.
Unicef is now calling on governments in these affected countries to increase investment in the sector, including global financing, as well as strengthening resilience in the WASH sector and local communities, increasing effective coordination and capacities to provide services and to implement the UN-Water Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #6 Global Acceleration Framework, investing in the key accelerators.
The Global Acceleration Framework is a unifying scheme that intends to deliver fast results at an increased scale to ensure the availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all by the year 2030.
There are five cross-cutting and interdependent accelerators: financing, data and information, capacity development, innovation and governance.
Executive director of Unicef Catherine Russell said: “Access to safe drinking water and sanitation are human rights to which we are all entitled. They are fundamental for human survival, dignity, economic development and wellbeing.
“In the absence of safe water and sanitation, children are more likely to be out of school and there is an increased risk of disease outbreaks, intercommunal tension and population displacement.”
The report went on to observe that progress towards achieving the SDG targets in relation to WASH is currently very slow, with estimates suggesting that at least $114 billion per year is needed in developing countries to meet these targets by 2030.
The last time this issue was discussed on the global stage was back in 1977, with 105 countries joining forces with civil society organisations to work towards preventing a water crisis by the end of the century.
Many of the obstacles seen back then are still prevalent today, such as agricultural water demand, water scarcity and urbanisation – but we now have the added pressure of the climate crisis to contend with, as well as conflict and migration.
The hope is that this year’s UN Water Conference will serve as a once-in-a-generation opportunity to renew focus and drive sustained action towards achieving the most basic but most critical SDGs.
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