Climate change is affecting every aspect of life on the planet, never have we witnessed such extreme weather this frequently — and the impact is felt acutely through water.
Two billion people lack daily access to a reliable water source. In the communities where WaterAid works across the world, we are seeing this hardship exacerbated by climate change. Water sources are drying up, floods are destroying and contaminating water and conflict is erupting between communities who are competing for scarce resources.
When families lack access to water, the burden of fetching water falls to women and girls.
Climate change affects the most vulnerable who lack the systems, governance and resources to cope. The greatest injustice is that the people who suffer the most have done the least to cause the climate crisis. Africa accounts for less than 4% of total global carbon emissions but is home to almost all countries’ most vulnerable to climate change. And amongst the most vulnerable are women and girls.
When families lack access to water, the burden of fetching water falls to women and girls. Without access to water, women’s health is compromised, and their educational and economic prospects are undermined, as is their decision making power and personal agency. Prolonged droughts, floods and storms have a devasting impact on women, as the ones responsible for water.
Strengthening access to clean water is the first line of defense against climate, and it is also an investment with a high return. For every $1, there is a $4 return on investment. We must act now, if we fail to invest in safely managed water and toilets for developing countries, the cost will be pushed much higher as weather events multiply and become more severe.
Nicole Hurtubise is CEO of WaterAid Canada.