Climate change could have devastating impact on world's poorest

The latest report from the IPCC, the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, has made clear that the impact on the poorest people and communities around the world could be devastating

27 Sep 2013

Fleur Anderson, WaterAid Head of Campaigns said: "This report is another wake-up call about the potentially devastating impact of climate change on water sources around the world. As we can see from our work in Bangladesh, climate change will make things worse for people who already have little or no access to safe water and sanitation.

"We need strong and sustainable investments to ensure water infrastructure can survive the impacts of climate change."

WaterAid is clear that access to sanitation and water plays a positive role in reducing vulnerability to climate change, the impacts of which are felt through and on water – too little, too much and wrong type (i.e. polluted or salty).

The 768 million poor and marginalised people that rely on unsafe and vulnerable water sources will feel it worst because these sources are highly exposed to the effects of climate change.

Lifting people out of WASH poverty is fundamental to reducing the impact of climate change on poor communities, yet sanitation and water remain underfunded – since the 1990s, the percentage of aid going to water and sanitation has nearly halved.

The added pressure of climate change means that more than ever, we need better performing and pro-poor WASH institutions in low income and fragile countries.

WaterAid has been examining the issue of climate change and how it adversely affects the poorest and most vulnerable communities. 

In 2013 WaterAid published Voices from the Source exploring how access to water, or a lack of it, affects the lives of people and their communities in two kebele (villages) in the rural Konso special woreda of Ethiopia. It looks at the pressures on water security; how different communities have responded and the impacts on their lives; and what the public policy and institutional priories should be to improve resilience at a local level.

In June 2013 we responded to a report from the World Bank saying that action on water and sanitation is needed even more urgently as a result of climate change.

In May 2013 Bangladesh was struck by Cyclone Mahasen, which lashed coastal areas, killing 12 people, destroying thousands of huts and forcing up to a million people to flee.

  • For more information about the links between climate change and water, sanitation and hygiene, read our Briefing Note.
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