Health

Unicef Warns of Severe Water Scarcity Impacting South Asian Children

The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has issued a stark warning about the escalating water scarcity crisis in South Asia, which is putting millions of children at risk. The region, home to one-quarter of the world’s children, is grappling with the worst water scarcity on the planet, according to Unicef’s report “The Climate Changed Child”.

The report reveals that a staggering 739 million children worldwide are facing “high or very high” water scarcity. This measure is a composite of baseline water stress, seasonal variability, interannual variability, groundwater table decline, and drought risk. South Asia, with its eight countries, is the most affected region, with the majority of these children residing here.

Unicef’s report also highlights that 436 million children are facing “extreme water vulnerability”, which is categorised as the double burden of high or very high water scarcity. This extreme water vulnerability is a significant contributor to the deaths of children under five years of age due to “preventable diseases”.

Climate change is exacerbating this crisis, disrupting weather patterns and rainfall, leading to unpredictable water availability. The effects of climate change are particularly devastating for children, affecting both their physical and mental health. Unicef Executive Director Catherine Russell termed these adverse effects as “devastating” for children.

Unicef South Asia head Sanjay Wijesekera has acknowledged that millions of children in the region are facing a shortage of drinking water. He emphasized that investments in safe drinking water and sanitation services are the “first line of defence to protect children from climate change impacts”.

The report further warns that by the year 2050, an additional 35 million children will be vulnerable to “high or very high water stress levels” in South Asia, Middle East, and North Africa regions. This ratio of total water demand to available surface, groundwater supplies is a key indicator of the severity of the water scarcity crisis.

In light of these findings, Unicef has called on world leaders to embed children in the Global Stocktake (GST) and include “children and climate resilient essential services within the final decision on the Global Goal for Adaptation (GGA)” at the upcoming COP28.

For the Pakistani audience, this report is particularly relevant. Pakistan, as part of South Asia, is also grappling with the effects of water scarcity. The country’s children are among those at risk, and the situation calls for urgent action and investment in safe drinking water and sanitation services.

The water scarcity crisis in South Asia is a pressing issue that requires immediate attention and action. The future of millions of children is at stake, and the time to act is now. As Unicef’s report highlights, investments in safe drinking water and sanitation services are crucial in mitigating the impacts of this crisis and ensuring a safe and secure future for our children.

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