Water Scarcity is a Cause of Poverty and Conflict

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World Water Week is taking place in Stockholm this week with world leaders, environmentalists and business people gathering to share information about the global water crisis.  This year’s theme is “Water, ecosystems and human development”.

Our ecosystems are under major pressure due to rapidly increasing populations, urbanisation and climate change.

“With the rapidly growing demand for water, it is becoming increasingly clear that water is everybody’s issue. Scarcity of water has become the new normal in so many parts of the world,” said Torgny Holmgren, Executive Director of SIWI, the organisers of World Water Week.  

The deputy general of the United Nations, H.E. Amina J. Mohammed stressed that there is a strong link between the degradation of the environment, poverty and violent conflict. Speaking about her homeland, Nigeria, she said, “I believe that the tragedy of Boko Haram is inextricably linked to poor water management and the solution to the conflict in the region must include equitable ways of using water resources,”

From the following extract from the World Water Week press release dated 27 August 2018 we can see that many are in agreement.

“Similar views were expressed by Åsa Regnér, Assistant Secretary-General and Deputy Executive Director, Director for the Intergovernmental Support and Strategic Partnerships Bureau, at UN Women. She described lack of water as a root cause of poverty and inequality since “only in Sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls spend 40 billion hours a year collecting water, equivalent to a year’s worth of labour by the entire workforce in France”.  

Carin Jämtin, Director-General of the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency, also talked about the relationship between poverty, conflicts and lack of clean water. “In countries affected by conflict and fragility, tensions over water increase. There is evidence that water and sanitation infrastructure have been attacked, or that the access to clean water is denied as tactic or weapon of war. Without access to clean water, children fall ill, hospitals do not function, and disease and malnutrition spread quickly. Among the threats against children in conflict, the lack of safe drinking water is one of the deadliest,” Carin Jämtin said.”

The OLA Sister living and working in Africa can testify to the struggles with water scarcity and the immense impact it has on the lives of the women and children who bear the brunt of this every day.

Related articles: It's About More than Water, it's a Women's Right's Issue