African countries carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH services
Nearly two of five deaths due to lack of sufficient access to water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) are from 10 countries in sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), according to a report by UNICEF.
Some 190 million children residing in 10 African countries face the triple threat of a combination of three water-related risks, water-borne illnesses among children under five and climate-related hazards, according to the report released in March 2023.
The threats are most acute in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ivory Coast, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and Somalia, making West and Central Africa one of the world’s most water-insecure and climate-impacted regions.
The 10 African countries are classified as either fragile or extremely fragile by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. These countries have less than 50 per cent access to basic drinking water or sanitation services, stated the Triple Threat: How Disease, Climate Risks, and Unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Create a Deadly Combination for Children report.
The lack of safe drinking water, sanitation and hygiene is destructive to all aspects of a child’s life. It puts fundamental needs — good nutrition, health, education and safety — at stake.
The stresses from conflict and climate change will make it even more challenging for these countries to accelerate progress towards the targets of the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and threaten the gains made to date.
Many of these 10 countries, particularly those in the Sahel, are also facing armed conflict. The region is one of the most vulnerable parts of Africa, facing a combination of climate change, conflict, poverty and political instability. Around 5.8 million people are water-insecure in the Sahel region.
Globally, 600 million children lack safely managed drinking water and 1.1 billion do not have access to safely managed sanitation, 689 million lack basic hygiene services, the document highlighted.
Three times the current investment — at least $114 billion per year in the WASH sector — is needed for developing countries to meet SDG 6 (access to clean water and sanitation) and other WASH-related targets by 2030.
African countries carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH services, the report said. Globally a total of 394,802 children under five years died of inadequate WASH services and 254,976 of those were in sub-Saharan Africa alone.
UNICEF urged governments and partners to scale up investment in the sector, including global climate financing.
“We are urging the international community to join UNICEF and our partners in securing safe water and sanitation for all. Through political will, leadership, investment and collective action, we can get the job done,” said Catherine Russel, executive director of UNICEF.
The UN body also recommended strengthening resilience in the WASH sector and communities as well as increasing effective and accountable coordination and capacities to provide water and sanitation services. It called for implementing the UN-Water SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework and investing in the key accelerators.
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