Thandiwe Newton, Nadiya Hussain, Dougray Scott and Lemn Sissay support WaterAid’s call for clean water for people on the climate change frontlines

Posted by
Ekene Oboko
28 July 2021
WaterAid / Chris Terry

WaterAid is inviting the public to join celebrities, climate activists, and politicians in urging the UK Government to help vulnerable communities get a reliable source of water, so they can protect themselves from the destructive effects of climate change.   

Actors Thandiwe Newton, Dougray Scott, and Amanda Mealing, TV chefs Nadiya Hussain and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, author Lemn Sissay, Malian band Songhoy Blues, film director Shekhar Kapur, actor and director Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, tennis star Heather Watson, and climate activist Cel Spellman, are among those who have signed WaterAid’s open letter, which highlights the experiences of the world’s poorest people whose access to water is threatened by extreme weather.

They are joined in supporting the charity’s campaign, Our Climate Fight, by politicians Caroline Lucas MP, Chris Law MP, Layla Moran MP, and Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, who served as Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa at the Foreign Office.

The public is invited to add their name to the fight for climate justice in the lead up to COP26, the UN’s global climate conference in Glasgow this November. WaterAid’s letter will be presented to Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab calling for a third of the UK’s committed international climate funding to be invested in locally-led adaptation projects. This will help people living on the frontlines of climate change adapt to extreme weather through disaster-resilient services that can, for example, withstand floods and drought.

One in ten people do not have clean water close to home, leaving people more susceptible to deadly diseases and having a damaging impact on education and livelihoods. Climate change is making it even harder for vulnerable communities to get clean water. Longer droughts dry up springs and wells, and more frequent flooding pollutes fragile water supplies with devastating consequences.

Only 5% of total global climate funding is spent helping countries adapt to the climate emergency, and much of that money is not invested in the communities most impacted by climate change.[i]  Some of the most climate vulnerable countries receive only $1 per person per year for water yet protecting water and sanitation services from extreme weather is highly cost-effective. For every $1 spent upgrading flood-resistant infrastructure, $62 is saved in flood restoration costs, as well as helping to prevent the contamination of water sources, which could save lives.[ii]

The open letter, written by WaterAid’s Basile Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso, features details of François Nikiema, 31, a father of three from Yargho in the West African country. Rising temperatures have contributed to the boreholes and wells in François’ village drying up. François says, “you have to juggle with the little water you have or simply give up certain needs due to lack of water”. His experience is a stark reminder that those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis, are the ones whose lives are most affected.  

Author, TV chef and WaterAid ambassador Nadiya Hussain MBE said:

“It’s appalling that millions of people are forced to live without clean water, something so many of us can take for granted. When families are denied this human right, it affects their health, education and livelihoods.  Now, the changing climate is making it harder for some of the world’s poorest communities to get clean water, with countries like Bangladesh, where many of my family live, being particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of extreme weather.    

“I’m supporting WaterAid’s campaign to highlight the harsh experiences faced by people living on the frontline of the climate crisis, and am joining the fight calling for action so they can remain resilient to whatever the future holds.  Please add your voice and help transform lives for generations to come.” 

Baroness Chalker of Wallasey said:

“Climate change is an existential threat to some of the world’s most vulnerable communities and access to clean water can be the difference between coping and not coping with its effects.

“If COP26 is to be a success, the world’s richest countries must pledge to provide the climate finance that developing countries need to adapt to the crisis. Without it, any climate plans won’t get the support from low-and-middle income countries and this is vital for it to succeed.

“The UK has a unique opportunity to show the Global South that we’re committed to reducing emissions and funding adaptation projects, to help those on the frontlines of climate change. It’s up to the UK to act ahead of Glasgow to show we’re serious, and that everyone else should be too.”

Actor Dougray Scott (“Ripley’s Game”, “Enigma”, “My Week with Marilyn”) and WaterAid ambassador said:

“We cannot ignore climate change; it’s already devastating lives and livelihoods around the world. It is making it harder for vulnerable communities to get the basics like clean water, and the huge injustice is that they’ve done the least to cause the crisis. 

“Everyone deserves a reliable supply of water that keeps flowing through flood, drought and natural disasters. I saw the difference it makes to people’s lives while visiting Mozambique with WaterAid; families are healthier, children have more time for school and their parents can earn a living, and women don’t have to put their safety at risk by trekking for hours to fetch dirty water.   

“WaterAid’s campaign could help transform lives, so please join the fight to ensure that everyone everywhere gets clean water.”   

Lemn Sissay OBE, poet and playwright said:

“Climate change is happening now, and it requires urgent action from all of us. The impact is already being felt around the world, and it’s the poorest communities who are most affected by increasingly severe weather like frequent floods and intense droughts, despite contributing the least to the crisis.

“If families have the basics like clean water, they can be more prepared for natural disasters, enabling them to bounce back quicker when they strike, so communities have the chance to thrive, no matter what the future holds.   

“That’s why I’m joining Our Climate Fight and supporting WaterAid’s call on the UK government to help get clean water to all and ensure efforts to tackle the effects of climate change are directed to the people who need it most.”  

Actor and WaterAid ambassador, Amanda Mealing (“Holby City”) said:

“Having visited Ghana with WaterAid, I’ve seen what happens when communities lack basic essentials like clean water. It means women spend hours each day collecting water, that’s often so dirty it can make them and their families sick. And it means doctors and nurses have to take time away from treating patients to collect water while also making it more difficult to ensure a clean, hygienic environment. As the world continues to tackle the global pandemic while also facing the growing threat of climate change, it has never been more vital to ensure everyone everywhere has access to clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene.  

“That is why I’m calling on the government to help ensure vulnerable communities have access to these fundamental human rights, whatever the weather.”    

Actor and broadcaster, Cel Spellman (‘Waterloo Road’, ‘Cold Feet’, ‘White Lines’), who appeared on WaterAid’s Future 15 climate activist list, said:

“One of the most heart-breaking, frustrating, and unjust things I find when it comes to climate change, is that it’s the vulnerable and marginalised people, and indigenous communities around the world who are suffering the brunt of our changing climate and feeling the worst of its devastating impacts. They’re on the front-line, even though they’ve contributed the least to it. More so they are usually the ones living most harmoniously with the natural world around them.  

“I, like us all, often find it hard to know just how we can help in the face of such a big crisis, that question that we all ask, ‘What can I do?’ But we can all help to make a difference to our future and lives around the world. If you can, please join me in supporting WaterAid’s fight to get clean water to all, whatever the climate brings.”

TV chef, food writer, and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said:

“Climate change affects us all, and we can all do something about it, from making small changes at home to calling on the government to take action. 

“I’m supporting WaterAid’s campaign to ensure families around the world have essentials like clean water, no matter what the future holds. With a reliable source of clean water, families can stay healthy, they can grow food to feed their families, and they can protect themselves from the effects of climate change. 

"By adding your voice to this campaign, you’re helping to ensure people have access to this basic human right.”     

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, film director and actor said:  

“Climate change is having a catastrophic effect on the world’s most vulnerable people, especially communities in the Global South, who are finding it more challenging to get essentials like clean water.

When I visited Ghana to see WaterAid’s work in schools and healthcare centres, I saw the positive difference clean water makes, it helps people bring in an income, stay disease free, and pursue an education. 

“We can all play a role in supporting these communities to have the essentials like clean water to enable them to adapt to the climate crisis. By signing the letter you’ll help to transform lives.”  

Tennis player, Heather Watson said:

“It’s shocking to think that one in ten people don’t have clean water close to home, holding them back from reaching their potential. It’s women and girls who are most affected as they tend to be the ones that spend hours walking to fetch water, often missing school or affecting their chance to earn a living. Climate change is making the situation even worse, requiring urgent action. 

By joining Our Climate Fight, we can all help people around the world get access to the basic resources like clean water and decent sanitation, so they have the chance to fulfil their dreams.”

Shekhar Kapur, film director (“Elizabeth”, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) said:

“Water is life. Growing up in India, I witnessed hardships endured by communities denied access to clean water, and saw how people’s lives flourished when they could meet their basic needs. It is also a common resource that belongs to everyone, yet one in ten people still have to live without access to this essential. We can all play our part in helping address this injustice, which is becoming more urgent as climate change threatens water supplies.   

“I’m supporting WaterAid’s campaign as the voices of those blighted by the impacts of the climate crisis needs to be heard by those in power. In joining Our Climate Fight, you can help ensure that they’re not ignored.”  

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid, said: 

"For millions of vulnerable people across the world, the devastating impacts of climate change aren’t a probability; they’re already here. It is a crisis they didn’t cause, and it’s making it harder for them to get vital resources like clean water, trapping whole communities in poverty. Despite the pledges from rich nations to provide financial support, people in the world’s poorest countries receive as little as $1 per person per year for water services to help them cope with the effects of climate change, underlying why aid is so crucial.”

“Time and again the world has failed its poorest people; now is the time to turn the tide. As the UK prepares to host COP26, we are calling on the Government to seize this unique opportunity to lead the way in investing climate finance where it’s needed most, ensuring those living on the frontlines of climate change are not left behind. With a reliable supply of clean water, people can recover quicker from disasters and can stay healthy and thrive, whatever the future may bring.”


For more information, please contact:

Ekene Oboko, Senior Media Officer, [email protected] or Laura Crowley, Interim Global Head of Media, [email protected]

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or email [email protected]

Notes to Editors:

Signatories to the letter include: Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (Actor and Director), Aditi Mayer (Sustainable fashion activist), Amanda Mealing (Actor and WaterAid ambassador), Andy Green (Chair, WaterAid), Bonnie Wright (Actor and Activist), Caroline Lucas MP (former Leader and Co-leader, Green Party), Cel Spellman (Actor and Broadcaster), Baroness Chalker of Wallasey (former Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa at the Foreign Office, Conservative and WaterAid Vice-President), Charlotte Harrington (Co-CEO, Belu), Chris Law MP (International Development Spokesperson, Scottish National Party), Dougray Scott (Actor and WaterAid Ambassador), Ellie Simmonds OBE (Paralympic swimmer and WaterAid ambassador), Freddy Fontannaz (Partner, Head of UK Residential PR, Knight Frank), Gemma Cairney (Radio and TV presenter), Dr. Guido Schmidt-Traub (Partner, Systemiq), Heather Watson (Professional tennis player), Héctor Bellerín (Professional footballer and Activist), Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (TV Chef, Food writer, and Broadcaster), Kulsum Rifa (Climate activist), Layla Moran MP, (International Development Spokesperson, Liberal Democrats), Lemn Sissay OBE (Poet and Playwright), Matt Tweedie (Group FD & Head of Business Services, Knight Frank), Melissa Hemsley (Chef and Author), Mitzi Jonelle Tan (Climate Activist), Nadiya Hussain MBE (Author, TV chef and WaterAid ambassador), Natalie Campbell (Co-CEO, Belu), Sir Richard Stilgoe and the Alchemy Foundation, Shekhar Kapur (Film director and Activist), Songhoy Blues (Malian band and WaterAid ambassadors), Tim Wainwright (Chief Executive, WaterAid), Thandiwe Newton OBE (Actor and Activist), Zaid Al-Qassab (Chief Marketing Officer, Channel 4)

WaterAid is working to make clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene normal for everyone, everywhere within a generation. The international not-for-profit organisation works in 28 countries to change the lives of the poorest and most marginalised people. Since 1981, WaterAid has reached 27 million people with clean water and 27 million people with decent toilets. For more information, visit, follow @WaterAidUK or @WaterAidPress on Twitter, or find WaterAid UK on Facebook at

  • 771 million people in the world – one in ten – do not have clean water close to home.1
  • 1.7 billion people in the world – more than one in five – do not have a decent toilet of their own.2
  • Around 290,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That's more than 800 children a day, or one child every two minutes.3
  • Every £1 invested in water and toilets returns an average of £4 in increased productivity.4
  • Just £15 can provide one person with clean water.5

[1]WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2020: Five Years into the SDGs

[2] WHO/UNICEF Joint Monitoring Programme (JMP) Progress on drinking water, sanitation and hygiene: 2000-2020: Five Years into the SDGs

[3] World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage

[4]World Health organization (2012) Global costs and benefits of drinking-water supply and sanitation interventions to reach the MDG target and universal coverage