Triple Threat Report

A new report released by UNICEF on March 19, 2023, highlights a major factor driving water insecurity in the world’s worst-impacted countries. The report, titled “Triple Threat,” reveals that a lack of monitoring of water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH) related programs, projects, and policies in a third of the developing nations is causing the problem. This lack of monitoring makes mitigation more challenging, and it’s affecting 10 African countries where children are most affected by the convergence of three water-related threats: inadequate water, sanitation and hygiene, related diseases, and climate hazards.

Triple Threat Analysis: Inadequate WASH, Related Diseases and Climate Hazards

The 10 African countries facing the triple burden of inadequate WASH, related diseases, and climate hazards are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia. According to the Children’s Climate Risk Index 2021 by UNICEF, these countries have a combined population of 190 million children and are the world’s most water-insecure and climate-impacted countries. They are within the top 25% of the developing countries in terms of exposure to climate and environmental hazards, shocks, and stresses.

Inadequate Access to WASH Facilities in Developing Countries

Globally, the percentage of households with access to at least basic drinking water rose to 90% in 2020 from 82% in 2000. Access to households with at least basic sanitation rose to 78% in 2020 from 56% in 2000 based on estimates of the World Health Organization (WHO) / UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme. Despite these global improvements, approximately four million children under the age of five die every year due to unsafe water, sanitation, and hygiene practices globally. Chad, in particular, has the lowest percentage of access to basic WASH facilities and has the world’s highest burden of deaths of children under five years due to unsafe WASH.

Slow Progress in Achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDG)

Considering the 2030 targets, the progress made in the last decade (until 2020) is slow, as 600 million children globally still face health issues from access to unsafe water and sanitation or no access at all. The United Nations General Assembly and the Human Rights Council recognized the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation as part of the binding international law in 2010. However, the report notes that countries most affected by poor WASH, related disease, and climate threats are not on track to meet the UN-mandated sustainable development goals (SDG) target of universal access to basic WASH services by 2030.

Insufficient WASH Funding in Developing Countries

In 2022, the UN-Water Global Analysis and Assessment of Sanitation and Drinking Water found that 75% of countries had insufficient WASH funding. There is a need to scale up investment in the sector rapidly, including from global climate financing, which is currently estimated at $114 billion per year in developing countries. If these 10 African countries are not on track, then the Global South will not meet SDG 6 of water and sanitation, resulting in a huge investment in health costs.



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