World Water Day is marked annually on March 22 and is aimed at highlighting the problems millions of people around the world have in accessing clean, safe drinking water.
The United Nations children’s agency UNICEF says that on the continent of Africa alone, 190 million children in ten countries are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene-related diseases.
The triple threat was found to be most acute in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia.
Central Africa is one of the world’s most water-insecure and climate-impacted regions, according to the UNICEF analysis.
Boitumelo Nkatlo, the founder of BN-Aqua Solutions, has developed a treatment that purifies acid mine drainage into drinkable water. He believes this solution has the potential of solving the water shortage challenges in South Africa.
“So, we have developed the prototype which is behind me where we use a waste material to treat acid mine drainage to the drinking stage (make it drinkable),” explained Boitumelo, “we will be solving two things, which is the availability of water since you know that we have experienced in South Africa water restrictions. So, this can serve about a million people.”
Across the ten African countries most at risk nearly one-third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services.
Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands because of a lack of water and soap at home.
As a result, these countries also carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate water access, such as diarrhoeal diseases.
Situation dire in Pakistan
UNICEF is also drawing attention to Pakistan after last summer’s devastating floods.
Ten million people in the country, including children, still live in flood-affected areas without access to safe drinking water.
The statement from UNICEF underscored the dire situation in impoverished Pakistan, a country with a population of 220 million that months later is still struggling with the consequences of the flooding, as well as a spiralling economic crisis.
The floods, which experts attribute in part to climate change, killed 1,739 people, including 647 children and 353 women.
Safe drinking water is not a privilege, it is a basic human right,” said Abdullah Fadil, the UNICEF representative in Pakistan. “Yet, every day, millions of girls and boys in Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against preventable waterborne diseases and the consequential malnutrition.”
“We need the continued support of our donors to provide safe water, build toilets and deliver vital sanitation services to these children and families who need them the most,” Fadil added.