Climate change threatens water access for world’s poorest – WaterAid

The debilitating impact of climate change

The impact of climate change on people’s water supplies is being overlooked – threatening to put progress on bringing clean water to all back decades unless urgent action is taken to help the world’s poorest communities adjust to changing weather patterns.

WaterAid’s latest report: “Turn the tide: The state of the world’s water 2021” shows how people are losing access to clean water as longer droughts dry up springs, seawater infiltrates groundwater supplies and landslides take out water pumps.

The international development organisation shows that investing in water systems that provide a reliable supply whatever the weather, is a frontline defence against the impact of climate change.

In the crucial battle to reduce current and future global emissions, the situation faced now by those most impacted by climate change has been given little focus or investment. The international charity is calling on Governments to prioritise water in their climate plans.

Without easy access to clean water, people’s lives are blighted by sickness, poverty and the endless drudgery of collecting water.

Women and girls around the world already collectively already spend an estimated 200 million hours a year – or around 23,000 years – walking to fetch water. For the one in ten of the world’s population that do not have clean water close to home the hours spent collecting water or the time needed to recover from waterborne illnesses caused by dirty water, robs entire communities of an opportunity to build a better future.

For water, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating problems caused by poor management of water resources, lack of political will, and inadequate investment. With the current climate scenario, it is predicted that water scarcity will displace between 24 million and 700 million people, by 2030.

Currently only 5% of total global climate funding is spent on helping countries adapt to their changing climate, and that money is not targeted at the communities most vulnerable to climate change.

The investment in ensuring that everyone no matter where they live has a reliable and safe water source to help make communities become more resilient to climate change, is completely inadequate to the growing crisis – some of the most climate vulnerable countries only receive $1 per person per year for investment in water.

On 31 March, the UK government will host a virtual Climate and Development event to build momentum towards this year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26). WaterAid is also calling on Government to address current and future threats to water access as part of the national climate action plans – including Nationally Determined Contributions, National Action Plans, and national budgets.

WaterAid Ghana is also urging Government to ensure the voices of local communities and marginalised groups are heard in planning decisions around adaptation.

Jesse Coffie Danku, the Acting Country Director with WaterAid Ghana said:

“Climate change is making it more difficult for vulnerable people to be able to rely on having clean water when they need it and it’s a great injustice that the world’s poorest people, who’ve contributed the least to the crisis, are living with its most destructive impacts.

“Unless communities have access to a reliable source of water, people’s health will suffer, and they’ll be burdened with spending more and more time searching for water, taking away the opportunity to create a better life and escape poverty.

“Government needs to step up now, commit to recognise the critical role clean water has in helping communities cope with climate change and recovering quickly from related extreme weather events.”

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