The freshwater crisis, the other crisis that threatens the world

The freshwater crisis – the other crisis that threatens the world

Africa is the continent most affected by the water crisis, a UN report sounds the alarm. Water has become scarce according to the UN, and Africa is hit by water scarcity. The freshwater crisis – the other crisis that threatens the world:

Water has become scarce according to the UN

The freshwater crisis – the other crisis that threatens the world

The freshwater crisis – the other crisis that threatens the world: Fresh water is a resource that is all the more precious because it is vital. However, according to the United Nations, vampirized by man, it could very soon become too rare. A shortage that can lead to tensions at all levels. By breaking the water cycle, we have paved the way for an unprecedented crisis.

Humanity is depleting the planet’s water resources “drop by drop”. To the point that a global water crisis is “imminent”, warns the UN, which is preparing to host the first international conference devoted to the management of water resources in 46 years. Blue gold has no agency or dedicated funds within the United Nations such as health or education. She also does not have a special envoy dedicated to her. Yet this resource is most precious since without it we are nothing. And the urgency is great.

According to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, “Humanity has blindly embarked on a perilous path. Vampiric overconsumption and overdevelopment, unsustainable exploitation of water resources, pollution and uncontrolled global warming are depleting this source of life for humanity. And we all suffer the consequences.” Today, there is not enough water in places and too much in others. But also a lot of water that is contaminated or polluted. Billions of people are already stricken by water-related problems, with an “imminent” risk of a global crisis.

Africa is hit by water scarcity

Today about 10% of the world’s population lives in a country where water stress (when demand exceeds available water) is high or critical. And according to the report by UN climate experts (IPCC) published on Monday, “about half of the world’s population” experiences “serious” water shortages for at least part of the year.

Over the past 40 years, the use of fresh water has increased by almost 1% per year. As a result, the volumes of water available decreased by 20%, on average in the world, between 2000 and 2018. The most affected are sub-Saharan Africa -41%) and Central Asia (-30%) and l West (-29%).

The water problem highlights inequalities. At least two billion people drink water contaminated with faeces, exposing them to cholera, dysentery, typhoid and polio. Not to mention pollution by pharmaceuticals, chemicals, pesticides, microplastics or nanomaterials.

But “wherever you are, if you are rich enough, you will manage to have water”, notes Richard Connor. “The poorer you are, the more vulnerable you are to these crises.” Currently, half of the people who do not have access to drinking water are in sub-Saharan Africa. The problem is not only the lack of water, but also the contamination of what may be available, due to the absence or deficiencies of sanitation systems. The freshwater crisis : the other crisis that threatens the world

Not just drought, water can also be a problem in floods

Logically, global warming multiplies droughts which, over the same period, affected 1.43 billion people and caused $130 billion in damage. The drought in the Horn of Africa in 2022 thus caused the death of 43,000 people in Somalia. But with global warming, the humidity in the atmosphere increases by about 7% for each additional degree. This leads to more precipitation, more intense and less regular. Between 2000 and 2019, floods are estimated to have caused $650 billion in damage, affected 1.65 billion people and caused more than 100,000 deaths, according to the report. Together, droughts and floods account for more than 75% of natural disasters experienced by humanity.

Water must be available, but also of quality to be drinkable. It is also estimated that 80% of wastewater ends up in nature. However, the various forms of pollution (chemical, but also microplatisc or pharmaceutical products), also affect freshwater ecosystems, victims in particular of runoff of agricultural origin. These ecosystems are “among the most threatened in the world”, notes the report, which mentions in particular the disappearance of more than 85% of wetlands. And “the loss of environmental services and biodiversity is expected to continue as natural areas disappear in favor of cultivated land”. With the risk of causing “considerable” greenhouse gas emissions when peatlands are “drained and converted to cropland”.

The lives of millions of African children hang on the water

From Wednesday, about 6,500 participants are expected in New York, United States, for an international conference on water. Among them, some twenty heads of state and government, dozens of ministers and hundreds of representatives of civil society and the business world.

Together, they must reflect on all the challenges posed by water management, knowing that according to the UN, in 2020, 2 billion people did not have access to drinking water, 3.6 billion had no toilet facilities, and 2.3 billion could not wash their hands at home.

Ahead of this conference, Unicef published a statement on Monday (03.20) to draw attention to the plight of 190 million children particularly exposed to the consequences of water-related crises. These children live in 10 African countries including Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea and even Mali, Chad and Niger.

Setbacks in access to water

The freshwater crisis – the other crisis that threatens the world

In spite of everything, has there been progress in terms of access to water in recent decades? “It’s a good thing that access to water is part of the SDGs (United Nations Sustainable Development Goals), on the other hand, the quality of the statistics is not optimal for measuring progress – or setbacks” , emphasizes Camille Romain des Boscs, Director of the NGO Vision du Monde, contacted by FLA.

However, the organization – which has been present in the field for many years – paints a rather gloomy picture of the current trend. “Overall, the situation is not very encouraging, and the progress is rather weak, slow and relative. We even observe regressions in the countries of the Sahel or even, at the moment, in the Horn of Africa”, deplores the director .

Indeed, where the inhabitants had correct access – in quality as much as in quantity – to water, internal conflicts or drought have caused the displacement of populations to areas where they find themselves deprived of it, or to territories where they compete with local communities, or even with wildlife. With, at the end of the day, “serious consequences on the health and in particular that of children under 5 years old”, notes Camille Romain des Boscs.

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