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Water crises threaten the lives of 190 million children in Africa

The triple threat of water-related crises include inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene.
A boy in Africa dips a cloth in a muddy puddle.
Posted at 2:14 PM, Mar 27, 2023

A convergence of water-related crises is threatening the lives of 190 million children in 10 African countries, according to a UNICEF analysis

The three main crises include inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, or what UNICEF refers to as WASH

UNICEF found WASH crises to be most prevalent in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia, placing West and Central Africa among the world's most water-insecure and climate-impacted regions. 

"Across the 10 hotspots, nearly one-third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services. A quarter of children have no choice but to practice open defecation. Hand hygiene is also limited, with three-quarters of children unable to wash their hands because of lack of water and soap at home," UNICEF said in its report. 

The 10 aforementioned African nations carry the heaviest burden of child deaths from diseases caused by inadequate WASH, such as diarrhoeal diseases, UNICEF said. For example, six out of the 10 countries have faced cholera outbreaks in the past year. 

"Africa is facing a water catastrophe. While climate and water-related shocks are escalating globally, nowhere else in the world do the risks compound as severely for children," UNICEF Director of Programmes Sanjay Wijesekera said in a press release. "Devastating storms, floods, and historic droughts are already destroying facilities and homes, contaminating water resources, creating hunger crises, and spreading disease. But as challenging as the current conditions are, without urgent action, the future could be much more bleak."

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