Deadly Lack of Fresh Water Puts Nearly 350 Million South Asian Children at Risk

by Vins
Published: Updated:

Almost 350 million children in South Asia—more than 55 percent of the under-18 population—are unsure where their next safe, clean sip of water will come from, according to a November 2023 report by Al Jazeera.

In November, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported this “staggering” statistic and called it a direct result of climate change. Worldwide, water scarcity affects 739 million children, or a third of all children in existence.

The agency reported that droughts last longer and are more frequent, up 29 percent since the year 2000. Uncertain rainfall patterns lead to “unpredictable water availability” and worsen water scarcity, the agency said. The situation is aggravated by human error, for example the overpumping of aquifers.

The lack of water threatens drinking, cooking, and cleaning, as well as agriculture and economic growth, and the problems are not going away. “With an increasingly unpredictable climate,” the agency said, “water scarcity is expected to become worse for children in South Asia.”

That hardest-hit region includes eight nations—Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Maldives, Pakistan and Sri Lanka—and is the collective home of a quarter of the world’s under-18 population.

UNICEF warns that water scarcity affects everyone, no matter where they live: “Every region of the world, including high-income countries, faces challenges related to water scarcity and with climate change, the problem is projected to get much worse over the coming decades.” Water scarcity is a problem, for example, for 16 percent of all North American children, 13 million of them.

“There’s no greater threat to humanity than the delusional belief that the climate crisis will spare the privileged few,” said Parneet Kaur, a member of the YOUNGO Climate Finance Working Group in India. “The most humbling and terrifying thing about the climate catastrophe is that it does not discriminate”

UNICEF’s report was released at the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP28), where the agency made a call for change on multiple fronts, including youth empowerment and education and across-the-board emissions reductions.

Corporate coverage of climate conferences focuses on celebrity press conferences and the perennial “gotcha” of how much fossil fuel was expended to fly everyone to the convention center. One English-language outlet that did cover UNICEF’s dire warning was Al Jazeera, sadly stigmatized in the United States as a mouthpiece for Islamic radicals.

Source: “‘Staggering’ 347 million children facing water scarcity in South Asia: UN,” Al Jazeera, November 13, 2023. 

Student Researcher: Ian Wroblewski (Frostburg State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Duncan (Frostburg State University)