Water-related crises put 190 million children at risk worldwide

Around 190 million children are at risk from a "triple threat" around water, warns Unicef, highlighting the convergence of water-related diseases, climate change and hygiene and sanitation conditions.

According to a new analysis by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), this scenario is particularly serious in West and Central Africa, namely in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia, countries where there is some political instability or even armed conflicts.

"Africa is facing a water catastrophe. We are seeing an increase in climate and water-related shocks around the world, but nowhere else are the risks so drastically exacerbated for children," said Unicef's director of programs, Sanjay Wijesekera, quoted by Lusa.

The analysis by the United Nations children's agency noted that in these 10 countries almost a third of children do not have access to basic water at home, two thirds do not have basic sanitation and there is still a shortage of water and soap for minimum hygiene.

"Devastating storms, floods and historic droughts are already destroying infrastructure and homes, contaminating water resources, creating hunger crises and spreading disease. But as challenging as current conditions are, if urgent action is not taken, the future could be much bleaker," added the institution's program officer.

In its press release, Unicef also pointed out that six of those 10 countries "faced outbreaks of cholera during the past year" and that they concentrated a significant weight in the daily deaths of children under five due to water-related problems.

"The loss of a child's life is devastating for families. But the pain is worse when it is preventable and caused by the absence of basic services that many take for granted such as safe drinking water, sanitation facilities and soap," said Sanjay Wijesekera, in a message ahead of the UN Water Conference, scheduled to take place between March 22 and 24 in New York (United States of America).

To try to respond to this diagnosis, Unicef will call for greater investment in the sector, including in global climate financing, strengthening climate resilience; prioritizing the most vulnerable communities in water-related programmes; improving supply and sanitation systems; and implementing the UN Global Acceleration Plan in water-focused aspects.

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