The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has published a report that examines the “triple burden” posed by inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH), related diseases, and climate threats. According to the report, three times the current investment in the WASH sector is needed for developing countries to meet SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and other WASH-related targets by 2030.

The report is titled, ‘Triple Threat: How Disease, Climate Risks, and Unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Create a Deadly Combination for Children.’ It highlights that, globally, 600 million children lack safely managed drinking water and 1.1 billion do not have access to safely managed sanitation.

The report identifies Sub-Saharan Africa as the world’s most water-insecure and climate-impacted region, with ten countries with a combined population of over 190 million children facing the worst of the triple burden of WASH-related threats. These countries are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d’Ivoire, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, and Somalia – all classified as either fragile or extremely fragile by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).

Unsafe WASH accounts for the deaths of approximately 400,000 children under five each year, or 1,000 every day, according to the report. In 2019, diarrheal disease from inadequate WASH caused more than 175,000 deaths among children under five in Sub-Saharan Africa. This is compared to only one such reported death in Australia and New Zealand. Around two out of five deaths from unsafe WASH services are concentrated in the ten countries experiencing the worst of the triple threat.

The report estimates that at least USD 114 billion per year is needed for developing countries to reach the WASH-related SDG targets by 2030.

It calls on governments and partners to:

  • Increase investment in WASH, including climate finance;
  • Improve resilience in the sector and among communities;
  • Concentrate on leaving no one behind (LNOB);
  • Enhance “effective and accountable coordination” and increase capacities to provide WASH services; and
  • Implement the UN-Water SDG 6 Global Acceleration Framework and invest in its five accelerators.

The report was released on 20 March, ahead of the UN 2023 Water Conference. [Publication: Triple Threat: How Disease, Climate Risks, and Unsafe Water, Sanitation and Hygiene Create a Deadly Combination for Children] [Publication Landing Page] [UN News Story]