UNICEF’s office in Iraq stated that children and young people are at the highest risk from water scarcity ahead of the commencement of COP26 in Glasgow.
The statement identified children’s health, education, and protection as most at risk as a result of unclean or unavailable drinking water. The organisation encouraged the country’s leaders to take urgent action. It stated: “The climate crisis is now a child’s rights crisis. It is an absolute injustice.”
However, Iraq’s President Barham Salih canceled his trip to Glasgow for the climate conference due to political instability in the country since last month’s elections. Other children’s charities such as Save the Children concur stating that leaders should be factoring water scarcity into their decision-making processes on climate change, to prevent further humanitarian crises. Ishtiaq Mannan, the Country Director of Save the Children Iraq, said: “The water crisis in Iraq shows that for so many of the world’s children, the climate crisis is already here. And the knock-on impacts, from hunger, to displacement, to health, are many.” Save the Children has identified the displacements caused by global warming as one of the leading causes of mental health issues for children and young people in the country.
This year tens of thousands of families were displaced due to reduced access to the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, on which several communities rely for their livelihoods. In August, the UN’s Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs, Martin Griffiths, warned that nearly half of the drinking water stations along the Euphrates River had been ‘significantly or severely impacted by critically low water levels’ by late June. More than five million people rely on these stations for drinking water and electricity, and to supply irrigation networks.
UNICEF is calling on the federal and regional governments to increase their investment in water aid, sanitation and hygiene systems, and health and education services. They aim to include young people in all national, regional, and international climate negotiations and decisions, such as at future COP meetings.