Climate change and lack of sanitation threaten water safety for millions: UNICEF

#ClimateChain Instagram campaign will highlight water and the environment

Drought in Ethiopia
Harko, 12, walks across the land with her younger brother. She is no longer going to school as is forced to go in search of water almost every day, travelling at night to avoid the heat and not returning to Haro Huba until well into the afternoon of the next day. © UNICEF Ethiopia/2016/Ayene

 New York/Addis Ababa, 21 March 2016 – On the eve of World Water Day, UNICEF said the push to bring safe water to millions around the world is going to be even more challenging due to climate change, which threatens both water supply and water safety for millions of children living in drought- or flood-prone areas.

In 2015 at the end of the Millennium Development Goal era, all but 663 million people around the world had drinking water from improved sources – which are supposed to separate water from contact with excreta. However data from newly available testing technology show that an estimated 1.8 billion people may be drinking water contaminated by e-coli – meaning there is faecal material in their water, even from some improved sources. 

“Now that we can test water more cheaply and efficiently than we were able to do when the MDGs were set, we are coming to terms with the magnitude of the challenge facing the world when it comes to clean water,” said Sanjay Wijeserkera, head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes. “With the new Sustainable Development Goals calling for ‘safe’ water for everyone, we’re not starting from where the MDGs left off; it is a whole new ball game.” 

One of the principal contributors to faecal contamination of water is poor sanitation. Globally 2.4 billion people lack proper toilets and just under 1 billion of them defecate in the open. This means faeces can be so pervasive in many countries and communities that even some improved water sources become contaminated.

The safety concerns are rising due to climate change.

In March 2015, a year ago, Ethiopia celebrated the achievement of meeting MDG 7c by halving the number of people without access to safe water since 1990 – 57 per cent of the population now using safe drinking water. During the celebrations, it was noted that the majority of the MDG water supplies have been constructed in the densely populated highland regions. Thousands of hand dug wells, springs and small piped water schemes have been constructed to serve the highland populations using shallow and accessible surface water. 

In comparison, limited water supply development has taken place in the water scarce areas of Eastern Ethiopia. Inaccessible and deep groundwater resources make water supply to these areas costly and complex. Combined with this, the negative effects of climate change such as changing rainfall patterns and increased surface air temperatures are resulting in increased evapotranspiration of available limited water sources. 

For many years, UNICEF Ethiopia has worked to develop water sources in water scarce areas of the country. In its current Country Programme, UNICEF is assisting the Government of Ethiopia in exploring the use of satellite/remote sensing technologies to identify deep groundwater sources. These sources are then being developed through multiple village water schemes which supply water to residents (women and girls) in villages, schools and health centres. 

When water becomes scarce during droughts, populations resort to unsafe surface water. At the other end of the scale, floods damage water and sewage treatment facilities, and spread faeces around, very often leading to an increase in water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhoea. 

Higher temperatures brought on by climate change are also set to increase the incidence of water-linked diseases like malaria, dengue – and now Zika – as mosquito populations rise and their geographic reach expands. 

According to UNICEF, most vulnerable are the nearly 160 million children under 5 years old globally who live in areas at high risk of drought. Around half a billion live in flood zones. Most of them live in sub-Saharan Africa and in Asia.

Starting on World Water Day and ending with the signing of the Paris Agreement on 22 April, UNICEF is launching a global Instagram campaign to raise awareness of the link between water, the environment, and climate change.

Using the #ClimateChain hashtag, UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake, UN General Assembly President Mogens Lykketoft, UN climate chief Christiana Figueres, and other prominent figures will figuratively join hands with members of the public in a chain of photographs intended to urge action to address climate change. The images will be presented at the signing of the Paris Agreement. 

UNICEF is also responding to the challenges of climate change by focusing on disaster risk reduction for water supplies. For example:

  • Nearly 20,000 children in Bangladesh now have access to climate and disaster-resilient sources of water through an aquifer-recharge system which captures water during the monsoon season, purifies it, and stores it underground.
  • In Madagascar, UNICEF is helping local authorities make classrooms for 80,000 children cyclone- and flood-proof, and provide access to disaster-resilient sources of water.
  • In drought-prone Kiribati, new rainwater-harvesting and storage facilities are improving communities’ access to safe drinking water.

 In a recent publication, Unless We Act Now, UNICEF has set out a 10-point climate agenda for children. It sets out concrete steps for governments, the private sector and ordinary people to take in order to safeguard children’s futures and their rights.

Ethiopia meets MDG 7c target for drinking water supply

Ethiopia meets MDG target for drinking water
Group photo with all partners who helped achieve Ethiopia meet MDG target for drinking water. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

23 March 2015, ADDIS ABABA: Today, the Government of Ethiopia announced a remarkable achievement in the Water Supply, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH) sector as it met Target 10 of the MDG 7c  for access to drinking water supply. The announcement was made in the presence of H.E Dr Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, H.E Engineer Wondimu Tekle, State Minister on behalf of His Excellency the Minister Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy, Senior Government Officials, Ambassadors, UN representatives, WASH partners and members of the media.

Dr. Mulatu Teshome, President of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia on the occasion said. “I would like to congratulate you of this great achievement of meeting the Water Supply MDG target and ensure you of the commitment of Ethiopian Government to make realistic its responsibility of providing access to safe water supply and sanitation services at appropriate service level to all its citizens. I call upon all of you to continue joining hands with the Government on reaching to the unreached”.

Ethiopia meets MDG on clean water

The 2015 assessment report by the UNICEF/WHO Global Joint Monitoring Programme for Water and Sanitation (JMP) indicates that Ethiopia has met the target of 57 per cent[1] of the population using safe drinking water and has attained the target by halving the number of people without access to safe water since 1990.

H.E Engineer Wondimu Tekle, State Minister on behalf of His Excellency Ato Alemayehu Tegenu, Minister, Ministry of Water, Irrigation and Energy said, “Thanks to the great leadership of the government, the diligent effort of WASH actors in particular and Ethiopian communities at large for reaching the have-nots in water supply; the country has achieved MDG 7c target”.

“Today’s event represents a great milestone to us, development partners, civil society, NGO, bilateral, multilateral, public and private sector professionals as we have joined hands to make this achievement a reality.  It is also a historic moment, where Ethiopia demonstrates its political commitment to resolving challenges in the Water and Sanitation Sector,” he added.

Ethiopia has embarked on an ambitious Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) which placed water supply at the core of all future development agenda. The Government’s heavy investment in the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) fund combined with increased donor contribution enabled the rapid acceleration of water supply coverage in many parts of the country. In addition, Ethiopia has developed a ONEWASH programme designed to ensure universal access to WASH services by 2015. The plan has a budget of US$ 2.4 billion and involves the collective contribution of public, private, NGO and donor investments.

Ethiopia meets MDG target for drinking water
Ms Leila Pakkala, Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, speaking on behalf of the Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) during the celebration event of Ethiopia’s MDG achievement on drinking water supply. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2015/Sewunet

 

Ms Leila Pakkala, UNICEF Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, speaking on behalf of the Joint Monitoring Programme said, “In 1990 only 6 million people had access safe water. Today, over 55 million people access clean and safe water. The progress that has been made has been impressive, to say the least. But we know that the progress we are celebrating today comes as a result of many years of consistent investment, time and resources at all levels. It has not been an easy achievement”.

The JMP estimates for Ethiopia were updated following a joint mission to Addis Ababa from 26-27 November 2014 and include data from the most recent nationally representative surveys. The current JMP estimates show that in the 1990 baseline year access to drinking water was 14 per cent and access to sanitation was 3 per cent. This means that Ethiopia’s MDG target for drinking water was 57 per cent and for sanitation was 52 per cent. The current JMP estimates show that by 2015 access to improved drinking water has increased to 57 per cent and access to improved sanitation has increased to 28 per cent.

Accordingly to the JMP, the total population reached with safe water between 1990 and 2015 is 48 million. There are still 42 million Ethiopians without access to safe water.  Of the 42 million Ethiopians who are not using improved water supplies, an estimated 33 million people are residing in rural areas and peri urban communities and 9 million are living within towns and cities.

Water and Energy Nexus: Workshop discusses the linkages of water and energy on World Water Day (WWD 2014)

By Demissew Bizuwerk

State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy H. E Ato Kebede Gerba delivering a keynote speech on World Water Day at Desalegn Hotel Addis Ababa.
State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy H. E Ato Kebede Gerba delivering a keynote speech on World Water Day. The Sate Minister highlighted that the Government of Ethiopia is facilitating the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that bring ministries and sectors, leading the way to interlinked energy security and sustainable water use. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

In commemoration of World Water Day (WWD) 2014, a workshop discussed the linkages of water and energy on 21 March 2014 at Desalegn Hotel Addis Ababa. Participants from the Ministry of Water Irrigation and Energy, UNICEF, Hilton Foundation, and other stakeholders also drew attention on addressing inequities, for people who live in slums and impoverished rural areas and survive with little access to sufficient food, safe drinking water, adequate sanitation, and energy services.

State Minister of Water, Irrigation and Energy H. E Ato Kebede Gerba said, “The Government of Ethiopia aims to facilitate the development of policies and crosscutting frameworks that bring together ministries and sectors, leading the way to inter-linked energy security and sustainable water use in a green economy”. He also noted that Ethiopia is working hard towards achieving its Growth and Transformation Plan (GTP) for water and irrigation sector. According to the GTP plan, a household in the rural area, has to have a supply of about 15 liters of safe water per person per day in 1.5 km radius.

Dr Samuel Godfrey’s presentation of the 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR)
Dr Samuel Godfrey’s presentation of the 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR) stressed that those who lack access to improved water sources and sanitation are often the same people who also lack access to energy. ©UNICEF Ethiopia/2014/Bizuwerk

UNICEF Ethiopia Chief of Water and Environmental Sanitation, Dr Samuel Godfrey, presents the highlights of the UN flagship report on water: 2014 World Water Development Report (WWDR). The report provides a detailed analysis of the complex inter-linkages between water and energy in the context of sustainable development.  According to the report, more than 1.3 billion people still lack access to electricity, and nearly 2.6 billion use solid fuels (mainly biomass) for cooking. In addition, those who lack access to improved water sources and sanitation are often the same people who also lack access to energy.

The 2014 WWD celebration has the objective of raising awareness on the relationship between water and energy. Moreover, improving water and sanitation as well as conservation and proper use of water is vital for life.

WWD has been observed globally since 1993 and in Ethiopia since 1994. The UN General Assembly in 1992 declared March 22 as “World Day for Water” following its environmental and development conference held in Rio de Janeiro, also known as the Rio declaration on Environment and Development.