WaterAid calls for action on water to guard against impact of climate change

Patrick Nimely Cheah, WaterAid Liberia and Sierra Leone Country Director

To mark World Water Day, on 22 March WaterAid Liberia is calling for urgent action from the international community and the government to reach the 847,000 rural people in Liberia without access to clean water.

WaterAid’s annual analysis of global water access, Wild Water: The State of the World’s Water, released ahead of World Water Day on 22 March, examines the vulnerability of rural communities around the world to extreme weather events resulting from climate change – including cyclones, ruinous flooding and prolonged drought.

It warns that changes in weather patterns could make it even harder for the world’s poorest people to access clean water. Liberia also ranks in the top 9% of nations worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and in the top 17%least ready to adapt to it, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index.

Today, 663 million people are without clean water globally, and the vast majority of them – 522 million – live in rural areas. These communities face particular challenges in gaining access to clean water, due to their often isolated location, inadequate infrastructure and a continued lack of funding.

Barbara Frost, WaterAid UK Chief Executive, at Glastonbury festival in June last year …courtesy of Ben Roberts-WaterAid

Existing challenges are compounded by extreme weather events, having an impact on the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the world’s poorest people. For people in Africa, where temperatures are projected to increase faster than the global average rise during the 21st century, the outlook is particularly dire.

Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common, and malnutrition more prevalent, as temperatures rise. Rural communities, dependent on farming to make a living,face an increasing struggle to grow food and feed livestock. Women – typically responsible for collecting water – may have to walk ever greater distances during prolonged dry seasons. Already,315,000 children under five are dying each year as a result of diarrhea diseases related to dirty water and poor sanitation.

Among the main findings:
•    India, among the world’s fastest growing economies and home to 17% of the world’s population, ranks top for having the greatest number of people living rurally without access to clean water – 63.4 million.
•    Angola tops the list of countries with the greatest percentage of the rural population without access to clean water. Despite being Africa’s fifth largest economy, 71% of the country’s rural population lives without access to clean drinking water.
•    Paraguay is making the most progress in improving access to clean water for its rural population. With 94.9% of rural dwellers now enjoying access to clean water, this South American nation has reached nearly 1.5 million people in just five years – an impressive 43% increase in access levels. Malawi follows closely behind, in second place.

Barbara Frost, WaterAid UK Chief Executive, said:

“This World Water Day is a timely opportunity to reflect on how extreme weather events make the daily struggle to access clean water even more difficult for the world’s poorest people. Many of the countries featured in the report are already regularly hit by severe cyclones, floods and drought. Rural communities – which are marginalised by their remote location and a continued lack of funding for basic services – often bear the greatest burden of these events.

“We are calling on international and national leaders to deliver on their promises to meet the Sustainable Development Goals, including Goal 6 to ensure access to safe water and sanitation. Clean water is not a privilege – it is a basic human right – yet over half a billion rural people are still living without access to clean drinking water. It is staggering to think that if all of these people stood in a queue, it would wrap around the Earth’s circumference six and a half times.

“Assisting communities to develop climate-resilient facilities is critical to the realisation of Goal 6 and to poverty eradication.”

Patrick Nimely Cheah, WaterAid Liberia and Sierra Leone Country Director Said:

“847,000 rural people in Liberia are still living without access to clean water. On World Water Day, we call upon our government and others around the world to keep their commitment to the Sustainable Development Goals, and ensure everyone is able to realise their right to clean water by 2030.”

This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling for:

•    Governments to prioritise and fund water, sanitation and hygiene, fulfilling these fundamental human rights and building communities’ resilience to extreme weather events and climate change.
•    Government leaders to increase efforts to meet their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, including achieving targets to reach everyone everywhere with safe, clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.
•    Governments around the world to keep the pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate summit and lead efforts to urgently increase funding for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change – less than a third of available international public climate finance has been reaching the least developed countries, while middle-income countries have been benefiting most.

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About Cholo Brooks 16097 Articles
Joel Cholo Brooks is a Liberian journalist who previously worked for several international news outlets including the BBC African Service. He is the CEO of the Global News Network which publishes two local weeklies, The Star and The GNN-Liberia Newspapers. He is a member of the Press Union Of Liberia (PUL) since 1986, and several other international organizations of journalists, and is currently contributing to the South Africa Broadcasting Corporation as Liberia Correspondent.