United Nations children’s agency, Unicef, is warning that around 600 million children across the world will be living in areas with extremely limited water resources by the year 2040. The warning was given on World Water Day.
For decades experts have warned about the impact of water shortages. In 1985, then-UN Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali famously said “the next war in the Middle East will be fought over water, not politics”.
This new report by Unicef, entitled Thirsting for a Future , paints an equally cataclysmic picture.
It looks at the threat to children from depleted supplies and the ways climate change will intensify that threat.
Warmer temperatures, more severe weather, rising sea levels, increased floods, droughts and melting ice will all affect water availability and sanitation.
Nick Rees, one of the authors of the report, says that increasing industrialisation and urbanisation are draining water resources worldwide and that conflicts are also threatening children’s access to them.
This is turn forces them to drink unsafe water exposing them to diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea.
Thirty-six countries – from as far afield as Afghanistan to Somalia – are currently facing high levels of water stress, which occurs when demand outstrips supply.
Unicef says that governments need to plan ahead for changes in water availability and the effects of climate change.
Businesses, it says, need to prevent pollution and communities should explore ways to diversify water supplies and increase their capacity to store this precious resource.