Now that we have entered a moment of heightened global awareness of safe water as a cornerstone of public health and community well-being, we must join hands with others to make the investments needed to save lives.
By 2050, 5.7 billion people, more than half of the world’s population, will be living in water-scarce areas for at least one month per year — not because of any one cataclysmic event, but as a result of continuous climate change-driven droughts and floods that threaten to squeeze the life out of entire swaths of our world.
So far, the water crisis has moved in slow motion, worsening as the Earth’s temperature gradually inches upward. COVID-19, however, has brought more attention to the urgency of safe water access — and not just because clean water is the first line of defense against the virus’s spread. The pandemic has also exposed a lack of critical investment in global water infrastructure that needs to be addressed with long-term, sustainable initiatives — and this work needs to start now, or up to 700 million people may be displaced by intense water insecurity as early as 2030.
Today, three billion people lack soap and water at home to wash their hands and sanitize surfaces. As the world confronts the ongoing threat of COVID-19, the two billion people who currently get their water from communal wells may be at greater risk of contracting the virus if they can’t social distance while retrieving water. And for those who do get sick, two in five healthcare facilities globally do not have places for doctors, nurses and patients to wash their hands. At a time where washing your hands can literally mean the difference between life and death, this is unacceptable. Now that we have entered a moment of heightened global awareness of safe water as a cornerstone of public health and community well-being, we must join hands with others to make the investments needed to save lives.
According to the UN, $6.7 trillion needs to go towards water infrastructure by 2030 in order to achieve the water, sanitation and hygiene component of Sustainable Development Goal 6 — “Ensure access to water and sanitation for all.” Given the urgency of action and scale of investment needed, it is essential that public and private sectors double down on our work together now. Inequalities in water collection are exacerbated in emergencies, and marginalized communities are at greater risk during crises. With COVID-19 directly threatening the health of those most in need; direct, timely interventions are key. Yet it is important to remember that water is a local issue; therefore, a solution that works for a rural family in India may not translate to a solution for an urban family inBrazil. To make sustained progress toward SDG 6, interventions must be tailored to the needs of individual communities, and scaled for impact. (…)
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