Global water crisis sparks calls for more action

A woman fills up water containers at a tap in a camp for internally displaced people in Baidoa, Somalia, on Nov 9. (GUY PETERSON / AFP)

Experts, leaders and social groups at the ongoing United Nations Climate Change Conference, or COP27, have called for action on water adaptation and resilience in the fight against climate change.

They noted that human-induced climate change is not only making water scarcer due to droughts and rapid evaporation, but it is also increasing the frequency of heavy rainfall events and accelerating the melting of glaciers.

Hani Sewilam, Egypt's minister of water resources and irrigation, said the global water crisis is currently affecting billions of people worldwide and is projected to be further aggravated by increasing demand, changing water availability and increasing impacts of floods and droughts.

He said Africa is harshly affected by rising temperatures, noting that more than half of the continent is under severe drought even as it experiences sea level rise at more than 3 millimeters per year.

As part of the solution, the COP27 presidency in partnership with the World Meteorological Organization launched the Action for Water Adaptation and Resilience Initiative to address water-related challenges and solutions across climate change adaptation.

The initiative is expected to push for water and adaptation investments for the most vulnerable communities and ecosystems in Africa.

In close cooperation with the African Union and African Ministers' Council on Water among other stakeholders, the initiative aims at offering transitional adaptation solutions for the planet and its people.

It will focus on decreasing water losses worldwide and improving water supply. It will also propose and support implementing mutually agreed policy and methods for cooperative water-related adaptation action and its co-benefits.

The initiative will also promote cooperation and interlinkages between water and climate action in order to achieve Agenda 2030, particularly Sustainable Development Goal 6 that focuses on clean water and sanitation for all.

Sewilam said the initiative will catalyze inclusive cooperation to address water as a key to climate change adaptation and its co-benefits, as well as enhanced resilience.

"I urge the agencies, international organizations and friends and countries to express interest in joining the initiative and specify projects and actions to be implemented on the ground," he said.

Sameh Shoukry, president of COP27, said the initiative will bring together stakeholders to alleviate the challenges faced by the world's vulnerable communities and ecosystems.

Elena Manaenkova, deputy secretary-general of the World Meteorological Organization, said 74 percent of all natural disasters are water-related and Africa is particularly vulnerable with the main killers being floods and droughts.

According to a paper launched by the UN Climate Change High-Level Champions at the climate conference on Monday, floods killed over 435 people in South Africa's KwaZulu-Natal Province in April and caused more than $1.57 billion in infrastructure damage.

In Nigeria, October floods killed 600 people, displaced more than 1.4 million people and affected over 2.5 million. Additionally, cholera is on the rise in the country due to flooding.