For global water security

Friday, 2022-05-20 16:37:22
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Picture taken on the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on March 22, 2019. (Photo: REUTERS)
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NDO - Sanitation and Water for All’s (SWA) 2022 Sector Ministers’ Meeting (SMM) is taking place in Jakarta, Indonesia with the participation of more than 70 ministers from across the world. The conference expressed its concern about global water security, especially during the more than two years of struggling with the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to statistics from the United Nations, approximately 90% of climate disasters in the world are related to water such as floods, droughts, and water pollution, while 40% of the world’s population (about 3.5 billion people) are vulnerable to the impact of natural disasters.

Water scarcity has been exacerbated by climate change, estimated to cost 6% of the GDP of affected countries. More than half of the global population lacks access to safe sanitation. During the COVID-19 pandemic, three out of 10 people did not have adequate facilities to clean their hands as recommended by the World Health Organisation, leading to a 36% increase in the risk of disease.

A special feature of SMM 2022 is that the host country Indonesia has extended its invitation to partners in the fields of health, environment and economy to discuss solutions to this global problem.

Amid water security becoming increasingly threatened, Indonesia brought the topic ‘Sanitation and water for all, anytime, anywhere’ to the agenda of the meeting. The discussions focused on four themes including the central role of political leadership in prioritising water, sanitationand hygiene as a key driver for healthy and resilient population and inclusive economic growth; barriers towater and sanitation improvement and investment and sustainable recovery solutions through reform and collective action; financial recovery and resilience; and the importance of using and sharing information to ensure transparency to meet obligations and responsibilities toward a better future.

Africa is one of the regions that frequently faces water scarcity. The situation of untreated wastewater and the scarcity of drinking water and clean water is becoming more and more serious and threatening the lives of hundreds of millions of people, in addition to increasing natural disasters such as floods and droughts, especially in West Africa.

In that context, the Institute for Water, Environment and Health under the United Nations University conducted a study on the difficulties and risks in water management in order to quench the ‘thirst’ for African people. Research shows that Egypt, mainly a desert, still has the safest water in Africa.

According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), nearly 99% of Egypt’s population has access to basic water supply services. However, the Central African Republic, located in the region with the most abundant water resources per capita in the continent, has only 37% of its population seeing access to basic clean water services. Even Madagascar - the world’s second largest island with high rankings in terms of water reserves, is on the unwanted list of 10 countries with the least safe water in Africa because of widespread poverty and a rapidly growing population. Research results show that having abundant water resources does not mean that many people have access to clean water services.

Another problem is wastewater treatment as no country has treated wastewater exceeding 75% of wastewater discharged into the environment. It is also alarming that up to two-thirds of countries have recorded less than 5% of wastewater treated. This is a common problem in poor African countries, as investment costs for wastewater treatment technology are very expensive. This problem has become a major public health risk in the context of Africa’s rapidly growing population and increasing numbers of people migrating to cities in search of work.

Access to clean water is a basic and legitimate human right, but it is sometimes not given due attention in some areas. The United Nations has repeatedly called on countries to focus on improving water security so that everyone can use clean water and have adequate sanitation facilities.