Children without access to clean water are more likely to die in infancy and childhood.
Infants and children are vulnerable to bacteria that can be found in contaminated drinking water. While some of those illnesses produced don’t cause immediate death, they can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and contribute to stunting, which affects mental and physical development.
Water supplies can become contaminated when drought, flooding, natural disasters or conflicts that interfere with people’s access to safe water sources. Water-borne diseases can thrive in these types of conditions.
Children are affected by thirst as well. Drought often results in children spending hours collecting water for their families. This results in missed school, and can put girls at risk for being attacked.
Risks are intensified by the impact of climate change.
Reduced water supplies and higher temperatures cause water-borne pathogens to thrive. In other areas, rising sea water levels cause fresh water supplies to become salinated. Scarcity of water impacts crops and livestock and leads to famine and starvation.
Governments need to start planning for changes in water availability and demand in the coming years. Climate risks should be integrated into all water and sanitation-related policies and services, and investments should be made to target high-risk populations. Businesses also play a role – supporting communities in preventing contamination and depletion of safe water sources. Communities themselves should explore ways to diversify water sources and to increase their capacity to store water safely.
Children’s access to safe water must be made a priority.
In a changing climate, we must change the way we work to reach those who are most vulnerable. One of the most effective ways we can do that is safeguarding their access to safe water.
There are many ways to help. In addition to raising awareness or making a donation, every purchase you make at UNICEF Market, helps UNICEF save and protect children’s lives.