Water crisis is now 'one of the greatest causes of mass suffering'

A A A

Governments are losing the fight to tackle the world's water crisis, now one of the greatest causes of mass suffering, a leading aid agency alleged yesterday.

The situation, which sees 1.1 billion people with no access to safe water and 2.6 billion people without basic sanitation, is steadily getting worse, in spite of a major pledge by the international community to improve it, according to the UK relief and development agency Tearfund.

The UN's Millennium Development Goal (MDG) to "halve by 2015 the proportion of people without access to safe drinking water and basic sanitation" is in danger of becoming no more than a pipe dream, the agency said in a report released for World Water Day, which falls today.

As the report was issued the seriousness of the water crisis was re-emphasised with new figures suggesting that five million people in Kenya are now facing food shortages as as result of failed rains. The drought in northern and north-eastern Kenya has also affected areas of Somalia, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Tanzania and Burundi, leaving more than 11.5 million people in need of food aid in the next six months.

The Tearfund report says that international aid, from the European Union especially, is failing to keep pace with the worsening water stress hitting a growing numbers of countries.

"Governments are failing to tackle a crisis in which a child dies from dehydration from diarrhoea every 14 seconds. Half the world's hospital beds are taken up by people with water-borne diseases," the report says.

"Over the past decade, aid for water and sanitation from EU member governments has been falling, despite 6,000 children dying every day from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water.

"Since the MDG was agreed, EU aid to water and sanitation has declined and a smaller percentage of it now goes to sub-Saharan Africa. In 1997, EU Member States gave an average of $126m (£72m) to address the global water crisis. Today, they give on average $94m."

The report alleges that the EU Water Initiative, launched in 2002 to coordinate and improve the EU response to the crisis, "has not changed any policy or practice to help one single person have access to water and sanitation."

It adds that money needed to meet the water and sanitation MDG - $15bn - is "a small proportion of the $100bn that is spent each year on bottled water, mainly as a fashion accessory."

The report says that the UK and other governments have failed to prioritise aid for water and sanitation in the way they have for health and education, even though diarrhoeal diseases cause 443 million school days to be lost each year.

Is says that between 2000 and 2004 the UK government gave an average of $327m a year to health, compared to $86m to water and sanitation. Furthermore, more aid for water and sanitation in poor countries is given as loans than as grants - pushing heavily indebted countries deeper into debt.

In 2002, governments at the World Summit on Sustainable Development recommitted to have plans for managing water resources in place by 2005.

Tearfund says: "This date has passed and only 12 per cent of countries have met the target. Add climate change and global warming into the equation, and even developed countries start to feel the heat."

The agency calls on rich country governments to commit to doubling aid to water and sanitation by 2010, focusing 70 per cent of this aid on the poorest countries and giving particular emphasis to sanitation and hygiene promotion. It says all aid for water and sanitation in the poorest countries should be given as grants not loans.

Another major report issued yesterday, the UN-led Global International Waters Assessment, said that the overuse of water for farming is the biggest environmental threat to the world's freshwater resources, and damage is likely to worsen until 2020.

The report said that more dams and deeper wells were not the answer. It said, for instance, that dams on the Volga River had reduced the spawning grounds for Caspian sturgeon, and 90 per cent of the water in Namibia's Eastern National Water Carrier canal was lost because of evaporation.

Voices
There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Austen Lloyd: Senior Private Client Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: SURREY - An outstanding high level opportunity...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Austen Lloyd: Construction Solicitor - London

Very Competitive Salary : Austen Lloyd: NICHE CITY FIRM - We are making a disc...

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick