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Wild Water - New report confirms climate changes poses grave threat to millions without clean water

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OTTAWA, March 20, 2017 /CNW/ - Ahead of World Water Day, WaterAid released today its 2017 State of the World's Water report, warning that extreme weather events relating to climate change could make it even harder for people living in poverty to access clean water—especially women.

The second annual 2017 State of the World's Water report, Wild Water, examines the state of access to safe drinking water in rural areas around the world. Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique are among the worst performing countries in the world. The report also warns of the implications of extreme weather events and climate change for the world's poorest, including ruinous flooding, prolonged drought and cyclones such as the one that hit Madagascar just this month.

Today, 663 million people live without clean water and the vast majority – 522 million – live in rural areas. These communities face particular challenges in gaining access to water due to their often isolated location, inadequate infrastructure and a continued lack of funding. Women and girls are disproportionally affected due to barriers relating to geographic remoteness and gender roles.

In Papua New Guinea, over two thirds of the rural population – 67 per cent – live without access to clean water, while Madagascar and Mozambique follow closely behind at 65 per cent and 63 per cent respectively. All three countries rank in the top 20 per cent of nations worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index*.

Among the findings:

  • India, among the world's fastest growing economies and home to 17 per cent of the world's population, has the greatest number of people living in rural areas without access to clean water—63 million.
  • Angola tops the list of countries with the greatest percentage of the rural population without access to safe water. Despite being Africa's fifth largest economy, 71 per cent of the country's rural population lives without access to safe drinking water.
  • Paraguay is making the most progress in improving access to water for its rural population. With 94.9 per cent of rural dwellers now enjoying access to clean water, this South American nation has reached nearly 1.5 million people in just five years – an impressive 43 per cent increase in access levels. Malawi follows closely behind in second place.

Existing challenges are compounded by extreme weather events, impacting on the health, wellbeing and livelihoods of the world's poorest people. For people in Africa, where temperatures are projected to increase faster than the global average rise during the 21st century, the future situation looks particularly dire.

Diseases such as cholera, blinding trachoma, malaria and dengue are expected to become more common and malnutrition more prevalent. Rural communities dependent on farming to make a living will struggle to grow food and feed livestock amid soaring temperatures, and women - typically responsible for collecting water - may have to walk ever greater distances during prolonged dry seasons.

WaterAid's Canada's Chief Executive, Nicole Hurtubise, says:

"Many of the world's poorest populations already struggle to find reliable water access. Extreme weather events resulting from climate change could make it even harder for them to access clean water. Governments around the world must prioritize and fund water, sanitation and hygiene, fulfilling these fundamental human rights and building communities' resilience to extreme weather events and climate change."

* About the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index 

The index looks at a range of information such as the effect climate change will have on the availability of food and water, how it will impact upon the nation's health, its infrastructure and ecosystem as well as assessing the country's economic preparedness, government preparedness and social preparedness. To find out more visit:  http://index.gain.org

About WaterAid: WaterAid helps improve access to safe water, hygiene and toilets in the poorest nations around the globe. Its mission is to help improve these basic human rights which underpin health, education and livelihoods and are an essential part of overcoming poverty. The international organisation works in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, Latin America and the Pacific Region. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 25 million people with safe water and, since 2004, 24 million people with sanitation.