347 million children in South Asia facing acute water shortage: UNICEF

The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) says 347 million children in South Asia are suffering from a water shortage.

According to the report, more than a quarter of all children live in the region, which is the world’s most populous and that 55 per cent of children in South Asia are affected by a lack of water, the highest rate worldwide.

“Safe water is a basic human right, yet millions of children in South Asia don’t have enough to drink in a region plagued by floods, droughts and other extreme weather events, triggered increasingly by climate change,” said UNICEF.

Sanjay Wijesekera, the UNICEF director responsible for the region, said UNICEF is calling on the international
community to take steps to ensure a planet worth living on for children.

Mr Wijesekera made the plea ahead of the COP28 UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai at the end of the month.

The report said about 594 million children globally lacked basic drinking water, sanitation and hygiene services, making them particularly vulnerable to water scarcity and climate-exacerbated hazards, shocks and stresses.

Water scarcity affects the well-being and growth of children and creates food insecurity, malnutrition and diarrhoea.

Water scarcity also affects agriculture, industry, and economic growth. And if farming families are doing badly, children are more likely to be forced into child labour, the report said.

In 2022, across South Asia, 45 million children lacked access to basic drinking water supplies, more than any other region, according to the report.

However, UNICEF said services were expanding rapidly and hoped that number would be halved by 2030.