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Wild Water: New report confirms climate change poses grave threat to millions without clean water

Srey Nuch, 31, with her two young daughters in the Chong Kaosou community, Siem Reap, Cambodia. Srey Nuch fears that her children could drown in filthy flood waters when she is out working. In Cambodia, 3.8 million people in rural areas live without access to clean water, while the country ranks in the top 29% of nations most vulnerable to climate change and top 31% of countries least ready to adapt, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index. WaterAid/ Tom Greenwood. Click here for high-resolution version

NEW YORK, NY--(Marketwired - Mar 21, 2017) - 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, and identifies Papua New Guinea, Madagascar and Mozambique as being among the worst performing countries in the world. The report 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. Women are among those facing disproportionate risk.

Today, 663 million people globally are without clean water and the vast majority of them -- 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 continuous 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%) live without access to clean water, followed by Madagascar (65%) and Mozambique (63%). All three countries rank in the top twenty percent of nations worldwide most vulnerable to climate change and least ready to adapt, according to the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index. These countries also rank #158, #154, and #180 out of 188, respectively, on UNDP's Gender Equality Index, reflecting low levels of secondary education and employment, along with high maternal mortality rates. All of these elements are directly or indirectly linked to low access to water, demonstrating that gender inequity, water, and climate change go hand in hand.

Among the main findings:

  • India, among the world's fastest growing economies and home to 17% of the world's population, has the greatest number of people living rurally 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% 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% 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% increase in access levels. Malawi follows closely behind in second place.

Existing challenges are compounded by extreme weather events, adversely affecting the health, well-being and livelihoods of the world's poorest people. In Africa, where temperatures are projected to increase faster than the global average increase during the 21st century, the future situation looks particularly dire, and will have a significant impact on water collection chores that are typically carried out by women. In areas facing ruinous flooding, overflowing latrines and fecal contamination pose serious challenges to public health.

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 increasingly unpredictable availability of water. Women -- typically responsible for collecting water and tending to kitchen gardens that are critical for their families' food security and nutrition -- may have to walk even greater distances during prolonged dry seasons.

WaterAid Chief Executive, Sarina Prabasi, says:

"The science is clear: climate change manifests itself as water change. The reality of more unpredictable weather, storm surges, ruinous flooding, prolonged droughts and more contaminated water sources is bad news for all of us, but especially for those living in poverty -- women and girls, in particular. Over the last 27 years 2.6 billion people have gained access to clean water for the first time; that's fantastic progress towards ending the global water crisis. We must keep going and finish the job. We know that communities with a secure water source are more resilient to extreme weather and better able to adapt to climate change. Now more than ever, all governments, including the US, must make access to water, sanitation and hygiene a political and financial priority."

This World Water Day, WaterAid is calling for:

  • Governments to prioritize and fund water, sanitation and hygiene, fulfilling these fundamental human rights and building communities' resilience to extreme weather events and climate change. This requires the U.S. Congress to fully fund USAID, ensuring continued improvements to gender equality, food and nutrition security, safe drinking water and water resources management, and climate change adaptation programs.
  • Government leaders to increase efforts to meet their commitments to the Sustainable Development Goals, including achieving targets to reach everyone, everywhere with safe, clean drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene for all by 2030.
  • Governments around the world to keep the pledges made at the 2015 Paris climate summit and lead efforts to urgently increase funding for poor countries to adapt to the impacts of climate change -- less than a third of available international public climate finance has been reaching the least developed countries, while middle-income countries have been benefitting most.
  • The Trump Administration to remain committed to the climate agreements and global climate financing mechanisms.

Notes to Editors:

  • To read the report: click here
  • To download a related photo gallery: click here
  • The Notre Dame Global Adaptation 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 is the #1 ranked international non-profit dedicated to helping the people living in the world's poorest communities gain access to safe water, toilets and hygiene. WaterAid has programs and influence in 37 countries across Africa, Asia, the Caribbean, Latin America and the Pacific region. To date, WaterAid has reached 24.9 million people with clean water and 24 million people with toilets and sanitation. 

Connect with WaterAid at Facebook.com/WaterAidAmerica and on Twitter @WaterAidAmerica, or find out more at WaterAid.org.

  • Around 315,000 children die each year from diarrheal diseases caused by dirty water and poor sanitation. That's nearly 900 children each day, or one child every two minutes
  • Over 663 million people (around 1 in 10) are without safe water
  • Nearly 2.4 billion people (around 1 in 3) live without improved sanitation
  • For details on how individual countries are keeping their promises on water and sanitation, see our online database: WASHwatch.org

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