Unicef: triple threat of disease, climate risks and unsafe WASH threaten 190 million children

Image source: UNICEF

14 Apr 2023 by The Water Diplomat

Child fetching unsafe water

According to UNICEF, 190 million children across 10 African countries are at the highest risk from a convergence between three factors, i.e.  inadequate Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WaSH) services, the resultant exposure to diseases, and the impacts of climate change. Many of these countries are also facing instability and armed conflict, further aggravating the insecurity of access to WaSH services.  By combining data on access to WaSH, estimates of the burden of disease attributable to unsafe WaSH services, and the exposure to climate and environmental hazards, UNICEF identifies ten countries where the risks from the combination of these three threats are the highest. These are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia.

UNICEF classified its data according to three categories of threats, which together define the ‘triple threat’: first, it grouped together areas where less than 50% of the population have access to at least basic levels of water and sanitation services. Second, children under the age of five are found by the WHO to be highly exposed to the threat of disease if they live in one of the top 20 countries with the highest burden of deaths attributable to unsafe WaSH.  Thirdly, the ranking of exposure to climate and environmental hazards among children comes from a tailor-made index, i.e. the Children's Climate Risk Index .

The global analysis was prepared by UNICEF in advance of the UN 2023 Water Conference, and according to the authors, reveals where investment in solutions is most needed to prevent child mortality.