World Water Day is observed annually on March 22 and aims to highlight the problems that millions of people around the world have in accessing clean, safe drinking water.
The UN children’s agency UNICEF says that on the African continent alone, 190 million children in 10 countries are at greatest risk from a confluence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene-related diseases.
The triple threat proved most acute in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia.
Central Africa is one of the world’s most water-insecure and climate-affected regions, according to UNICEF’s analysis.
Boitumelo Nkatlo, the founder of BN-Aqua Solutions, has developed a treatment that cleans acid mine drainage into drinkable water. He believes this solution has the potential to solve the challenges of water scarcity in South Africa.
“So, we’ve developed the prototype behind me where we use a waste material to treat acid mine drainage to the potable stage (make it drinkable),” Boitumelo explained, “we’re going to solve two things, which is the availability of water because you know we’ve experienced water restrictions in South Africa. So this could serve about a million people.”
In the ten most vulnerable African countries, almost a third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds lack basic sanitation.
Hand hygiene is also limited, with three quarters of children unable to wash their hands due to a lack of water and soap at home.
As a result, these countries also bear the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate access to water, such as diarrheal diseases.
The situation is dire in Pakistan
UNICEF is also paying attention to Pakistan after last summer’s devastating floods.
Ten million people in the country, including children, still live in flood-affected areas without access to clean drinking water.
The UNICEF statement underscored the dire situation in impoverished Pakistan, a country of 220 million that months later is still struggling with the consequences of the floods, as well as a spiraling economic crisis.
The floods, which experts partly attribute to climate change, killed 1,739 people, including 647 children and 353 women.
Safe drinking water is not a privilege, it is a basic human right,” said Abdullah Fadil, UNICEF Representative in Pakistan. “But every day, millions of girls and boys in Pakistan are fighting a losing battle against preventable waterborne diseases and the resulting malnutrition.”
“We need the continued support of our donors to provide clean water, build toilets and deliver essential sanitation services to these children and families who need them most,” Fadil added.