Have you had water today? Are you someone who has to remind yourself to drink more water throughout your day to stay healthy? Some of us even lug giant bottles of water around wherever we go to ensure we’re consistently staying hydrated.
When in other parts of the world getting the bare minimum of water is a daily struggle. And, for many kids, finding water to drink is the priority of their day.
Worldwide, 2.2 billion people still lack access to safe drinking water, and 450 million children live in areas of high, or extremely high-water vulnerability. This means 1 in 5 children worldwide don't have enough water to meet their everyday needs.
The climate crisis continues to wreak havoc on communities across the globe, exacerbating extreme weather conditions that are causing deadly heatwaves and little rainfall. Families and children are doing all they can to survive in longer and more extreme drought periods.
But there is hope. Generosity from donors helps us to directly address the dire needs around water scarcity. We’ve set an ambitious goal for UNICEF‘s WASH (water, sanitation and hygiene) programme to reach 450 million children living in water vulnerable areas by 2025. The WASH programme provides them with climate resilient water, sanitation and hygiene solutions. By, 2030 we aim for all children to have access to a safe and affordable water supply and to live in water secure communities.
12-year-old Lobina is washing her face at a solar powered water tap near the children’s corner in Lilongwe in Central Malawi— a region that is facing its worse drought period to date.
What's in the headlines?
By now, you would have seen news headlines showing drought conditions in the USA, France, Italy and Spain—caused by excessive heatwaves and little rainfall throughout the summer months. Droughts are everywhere. But regions that are less reported are those across Africa and the Pacific. These areas are currently grappling with droughts that have lasted for months to several years. There is no foreseeable end to these dry periods, they only continue to intensify and impact the survival of millions of children.
The Horn of Africa
The Horn of Africa (including Djibouti, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Somalia) has been facing the worst climate-induced emergency they’ve seen in 40 years as a result of three consecutive dry seasons.
Women and children walk past animal carcasses in Sagalo village, Somali region, as strong wind blows dust all over the place. Cows, sheep, goats, camels, and donkeys perish as severe drought hits the region.
The number of drought-hit people in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia without reliable access to safe water rose from 9.5 million in February to 16.2 million in July.
This means children not only have little to no water to drink but with no rainfall, crops and vegetation perish. Livestock also die from food and water leading to loss of family income and food—leading to malnutrition. Young kids are forced to walk long distances in extreme heat to bring water back to their families.
In fact, an increase in kids dropping out of school has reached 15 million in the region. That’s because they are forced to leave school to help fetch water or look after young kids while their caregivers try to find water and food. The journey to find water is made even harder, walking while dehydrated and severely malnourished.
10-year-old Bukhari Aden (above) came to this water site to help his mother Dama Mohammed. After they gave water to the camels and donkey, Bukhari and his mother took two jerrycans of water to the cows back home. He’s never been to school.
“In our village the children are responsible to look after the animals. There is no water near the village. If water is available nearby, it would be easy for me to go to school.”
Young kids that aren't going to school are put more at risk and vulnerable to child marriage which has increased during the current drought conditions.
In southern Madagascar, four years of consecutive droughts have left families in severe conditions desperate to find water. The Manabovo river, an essential water source, has completely dried up leaving locals to gather on its bed to dig holes in the hope of finding water underground. The drought means they’re forced to live off whatever food is available such as locusts, red cactus fruits, wild roots, and leaves.
Regions suffering from severe droughts are even closer to home than you think.
In June this year, UNICEF dispatched 11 tones of immediate supplies to support thousands of families and kids in Kiribati. The island nation declared a state of emergency because of a prolonged drought and below average rainfall. Tuvalu also requested assistance from the United Nations. More critical supplies are on the way as 100,000 people in Kiribati and Tuvalu alone have been affected by dry conditions that have lasted since November 2021 and are predicted to continue throughout 2022.
Life-saving supplies touch down in Tarawa, Kiribati where people are heavily dependent on rainwater for harvesting.
Emergency supplies of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) equipment were the first response but with the drought likely to last the rest of the year, we continue to work with governments to be strategic in our response and to reach more kids in need. Rising sea levels in the Pacific are also causing fresh water sources to become salty, compromising the water thousands of people rely on. So, we’ve planned to deliver innovative equipment for groundwater testing, portable desalination units, water containers, purifying tablets, and portable water testing kits that will support children and communities through this climate crisis.
Generosity from amazing donors goes towards supplying lifesaving equipment like this to help millions of children across the world even in the most rural communities and hardest to reach places. With droughts happening more frequently and getting more severe, it means we’re going to need a lot more help to reflect the growing need and to ensure every kid has clean water by 2025.
So, the next time you remind yourself to drink more water also remember with your help more kids can enjoy the benefits of clean water too.