Did you know that 71% of the Earth’s surface is covered with water?
Probably yes, but did you also know that 2.5% of it is fresh and thus actually drinkable?
Doesn’t seem like a lot, but those 2.5% of fresh water could comfortably supply every living creature on Earth if exploited accordingly and intelligently. However, due to climate change and poor economics and infrastructure, many people are still denied this basic human right of clean water and sanitation. And it is mostly children who still die each year from diseases associated with poor water quality and inadequate sanitation and hygiene.
Being at the very core of sustainable development, water and sanitation are critical for the survival of people, planet, and its prosperity. The scarcity of water, exposure to poor water quality and insufficient sanitation levels has a negative impact on livelihood choices, food security, and educational progress for adults and children across the globe. For example, the time-consuming and physically exhausting endeavor of procuring water in some areas of the world, such as in Asia or Africa prevents women from working at jobs and keeps children away from school, which in turn continues a cycle of poverty and socio-economic exclusion.
Furthermore, water is not only needed for domestic purposes, but also in agriculture for irrigation, and for industrial endeavors and energy production, for instance electricity. Water scarcity currently affects more than 40% of the world’s population, a figure set to rise due to growing demands on water supply, and rising temperatures as a consequence of climate change, the latter severing water scarcity in some parts of the world, and the risk of flooding in others.
“[…] water, sanitation and hygiene underpin so much of the rest of the goals. Those related to nutrition, health, education, poverty and economic growth, urban services, gender equality, resilience and climate change cannot be met without progress on water, sanitation and hygiene.”
– Sanjay Wijesekera, Chief of Water, Sanitation and Hygiene at UNICEF
Hence, Goal 6 not only addresses the issues relating to drinking water, sanitation and hygiene, but also the quality and sustainability of water resources worldwide. There are many different challenges which must be faced and different approaches through which these issues can be tackled and Goal 6 eventually achieved. Some of the targets for SDG 6 include:
- giving more priority to the needs of children, girls, women and people in vulnerable situations;
- ensuring water-catchment areas such as forests and mountains are well protected by discouraging human settlement and uncontrolled and illegal cutting of trees in these areas;
- holding global campaigns to teach people on how to minimize on water wastage and why this is necessary;
- promoting and supporting participation of communities in enhancing and improving sanitation and water management.
Author: Catherine Barth