Stormy times ahead for world's poorest

With more wild weather forecast for the future, access to safe water is going to get harder for the world's poorest communities. Our task is to build resilience.

21 Mar 2017

Climate change is water change. It means fiercer storms, heavier floods and longer droughts. And as the global temperature creeps up, more and more of us will be affected.

According to our report 'Wild Water', released for World Water Day, 80% of the global population already faces threats to its water security. Less water availability and growing demand is threatening livelihoods, health and well-being.

When climate disasters strike rural populations, the challenges are even greater.

Half a billion people currently live in rural areas without access to safe water. Unpredictable rains can destroy fragile infrastructure, whilst prolonged droughts dry up rivers and ponds. With contaminated water and a lack of decent loos, the spread of diseases such as cholera and malaria are fast on the heels of natural disasters.

Eye of the storm

The rural populations of Mozambique know these dangers only too well. Over the past two years, both severe flooding and devastating droughts have hit the country, leaving millions of people in dire need of humanitarian assistance. Julietta is one of those people.

Julietta Chauque, 42, from Marien Ngouabi in Mozambique. 63% of Mozambique's rural population live without access to safe water.Julietta Chauque, 42, from Marien Ngouabi in Mozambique. 63% of Mozambique's rural population live without access to safe water.

"I wish for rain. Our only hope is farming, and without rain there is no farming, no food, and no means to survive and feed my children. I normally have to pay for water, but it is very difficult with no way to raise money."

A simple solution?

The forecast is bleak. But simple infrastructure can help mitigate the dangers of extreme weather events.

A community with a well-maintained water source, such as a rainwater collection system, is much more likely to survive a drought. Well-built toilets help prevent the spread of human waste and reduce the risk of waterborne diseases.

Progress in countries like Cambodia and Malawi – where 89% of the rural population now have access to safe water – could be undone if efforts aren't made to strengthen infrastructure and make water and sanitation services more resilient to climate change.

That's why WaterAid is calling for more public and private financing of water, sanitation and hygiene. Because if universal access to these basic human rights is achieved, everyone in the world will have a better chance of weathering the storm.

Download and read the full report (pdf) >