Some 12 per cent of the world's population lacks clean drinking water and every day it's estimated 4,500 children die due to a lack of access to clean drinking water. Water-related diseases account for 3.5 million deaths each year - far more than deaths caused by car accidents and AIDS combined.
March 22 is World Water Day and the World Water Council is calling on all governments to address the issue urgently; because without water there is no life, no food and no development and without water countries and societies can't develop economically, culturally, socially or politically.
Access to water is key and has an impact on all of our lives because lack of access to clean water can contribute to famine, wars and uncontrolled and irregular migration.
Currently 319 million, or 32 per cent, of Sub-Saharan Africans, 554 million Asians and 50 million Latin Americans do not have access to safe drinking water. Of these regions, Papua New Guinea has the lowest availability with only 40 per cent of people with access, followed by Equatorial Guinea at 48 per cent, Angola at 49 per cent, Chad and Mozambique at 51 per cent, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Madagascar at 52 per cent and Afghanistan at 55 per cent.
Water: a wake-up call governments must address
Worldwide, the total cost of water insecurity to the global economy is estimated at US $500 billion annually. The World Water Council (WWC) is calling on all governments to focus on water issues and contribute a meaningful part of their budgets to projects that make safe water available to everyone.
'There is an absolute necessity to increase water security in order to overcome the challenges brought on by climate change and human influence,' says WWC president Benedito Braga. 'World leaders realize that sanitation is fundamental to public health, but we need to act now in order to achieve the UN’s Global Sustainable Development Goal no. 6 – to deliver safe water and sanitation to everyone everywhere by 2030. We need commitment at the highest levels, so every town and city in the world can ensure that safe, clean water resources are available.'
Water: a universal human right
'This year, the impact of waste water is the focus of World Water Day,' says Braga. 'Approximately 90 per cent of the world’s waste water flows untreated into the environment. More than 923 million people worldwide have no safe drinking water, and 2.4 billion do not have adequate sanitation. The result of this is that one in five children under the age of five die prematurely each year from water-related diseases. And bear in mind that approximately 700 million people are living in urban areas without safe toilets.'
Many countries are aware of the importance of water security. While the right to water and sanitation was recognized by the UN in 2010, two-thirds of the 94 countries surveyed by the World Health Organization in 2014 recognized drinking-water and sanitation as a universal human right specifically in national legislation.
More than 80 per cent reported having national policies in place for drinking water and sanitation and more than 75 per cent have created policies for hygiene. However, much more remains to be done. An estimated $650 billion US dollars of annual investment is required from now until 2030 to ensure the infrastructure necessary to achieve universal water security is put into place.
Water security: a high return on investment
According to Braga, 'water is an essential ingredient for social and economic development. It secures enough food for all, provides sufficient and stable energy supplies and ensures market and industrial stability. In the context of natural disasters and climate change, floods and droughts are at the root cause of many of our societies´ woes. Improved multi-purpose infrastructure is an essential step towards growth for many developing countries.'
You can watch some short videos from the WWC - see video here