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Water Stress and Climate Change impact on Children – UNICEF Report
News: The latest United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report states that nearly half of the world’s children faced high to extremely high water stress in 2022.
• UNICEF's Call for Child-Centric Climate Action: UNICEF emphasizes the criticality of 28th Conference of Parties (COP28) to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, urging a shift in focus to prioritize children in climate agendas.
• Water Scarcity: 1 in 3 children, or 739 million worldwide, already live in areas exposed to high or very high water scarcity. The climate change threatens to make this worse.
• Water Vulnerability: 436 million children are facing the double burden of high or very high water scarcity and low or very low drinking water service levels. This is known as extreme water vulnerability, leaving their lives, health, and well-being at risk.
• Climate Change Impact: The report provides an analysis of the impacts of three tiers of water security globally – water scarcity, water vulnerability, and water stress. It also outlines the myriad of other ways in which children bear the brunt of the impacts of the climate crisis –including disease, air pollution, and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.
• Health Impact: From the moment of conception until they grow into adulthood, the health and development of children’s brains, lungs, immune systems, and other critical functions are affected by the environment they grow up in.
• Regional Impact: According to the report findings, the greatest share of children are exposed in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions.
What is Water Stress?
• Water stress is a condition where the demand for water exceeds the available amount during a certain period or when poor quality of available water restricts its use. It occurs when deterioration of freshwater takes place in terms of quality and quantity.
• On the demand side, the vast majority—roughly 70 percent—of the world’s freshwater is used for agriculture, while the rest is divided between industrial (19 percent) and domestic uses (11 percent), including for drinking. On the supply side, sources include surface waters, such as rivers, lakes, and reservoirs, as well as groundwater, accessed through aquifers.
• According to the World Resources Institute report, globally at least 50% of the world's population live under highly water stressed conditions for at least one month of the year, the WRI report noted.
• The Falkenmark Indicator, also known as the Water Stress Index, is one of the most commonly used measures of water scarcity. It defines water scarcity in terms of the total water resources that are available to the population of a region, measuring scarcity as the amount of renewable freshwater that is available for each person each year.
• This indicator is used to identify the regions that suffer from water stress and helps in understanding the pressure that population puts on water resources, including the needs for natural ecosystems.