Climate change, lack of sanitation may increase water-linked diseases

unicefAs part of activities marking the World Water Day yesterday, the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) has warned that the push to bring safe water to millions around the world is going to be even more challenging due to climate change, which threatens both water supply and water safety for millions of children living in drought or flood-prone areas.

According to a statement released by UNICEF, in 2015 at the end of the Millennium Development Goal era, all but 663 million people around the world had drinking water from improved sources – which are supposed to separate water from contact with excreta. However data from newly available testing technology show that an estimated 1.8 billion people may be drinking water contaminated by e-coli – meaning there is faecal material in their water, even from some improved sources.

According to UNICEF, higher temperatures brought on by climate change are also set to increase the incidence of water-linked diseases like malaria, dengue – and now Zika – as mosquito populations rise and their geographic reach expands.

And to mark the International Day of Forests (IDF), in Abuja, the nation’s capital, the Minister of Environment, Amina Mohammed stated that this year’s celebration is to raise awareness on how forests are key to the planet’s supply of fresh water, which is essential to life, and the multiple links between forests and water sources. Forests and Wetlands depend on water sources but at the same time forest ecosystems sustain water quality and help mitigate the risks of water-related disasters.

She disclosed that 1.6 billion people depend on forests for livelihoods, medicine, fuel and food, adding, forests cover one-third of the earth’s land mass, contributing significantly to reducing soil erosion and the risks of landslides, avalanches and other natural disasters.

The minister therefore regretted that, Climate change was altering the capability of forests in regulating water availability and quality, which has resulted to a large scale deforestation of 13 million hectares annually, and its impacts on precipitation pattern and water regulation.

Head of UNICEF’s global water, sanitation and hygiene programmes, Sanjay Wijeserkera, said: “Now that we can test water more cheaply and efficiently than we were able to do when the MDGs were set, we are coming to terms with the magnitude of the challenge facing the world when it comes to clean water. With the new Sustainable Development Goals calling for ‘safe’ water for everyone, we’re not starting from where the MDGs left off; it is a whole new ball game.”

According to UNICEF, one of the principal contributors to faecal contamination of water is poor sanitation. Globally 2.4 billion people lack proper toilets and just under one billion of them defecate in the open. This means faeces can be so pervasive in many countries and communities that even some improved water sources become contaminated.

The statement noted: “When water becomes scarce during droughts, populations resort to unsafe surface water. At the other end of the scale, floods damage water and sewage treatment facilities, and spread faeces around, very often leading to an increase in water-borne diseases such as cholera and diarrhea.”

In a bid to provide portable water for the people of Ondo State and create more job opportunities, Governor Olusegun Mimiko has partnered with Agence Francaise de Development (AFD) to reticulate Owena Water Basin Dam.

Mimiko declared this at the 2016 World Water Day yesterday in Akure, theme: “Better Water, Better Job” that has twin prospects of providing hygienic water supply, same way, creating more employment for the people.

The governor, who was represented by the Chief of Staff, Chief Kola Ademujimi, said the celebration has been used to attend to critical issues, acknowledging it has the potentials to change the lots of mankind.

He noted that the state government has spent N3 billion to rehabilitate and upgrade the various water schemes in the last seven years, while over N1billion was expended on sinking solar-powered water.

Governor Mimiko also remarked that the Aboto Water Scheme in Ilaje Local Government Area of the state is the first of its kind in the riverine area since the state was created 40 years ago, and the N4.3 billion projects will serve coastal communities.
Consequently, he asserted that yet another job prospects would be created through the partnership with the French company to create more employments with the Public Private Partnership (PPP).

According to the statement, starting on World Water Day and ending with the signing of the Paris Agreement on 22 April, UNICEF is launching a global Instagram campaign to raise awareness of the link between water, the environment, and climate change.

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