During the two weeks of COP26, women will miss 2.5 million working days to collect water

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In the time it takes for world leaders to agree on climate action at COP26, women in developing countries will lose the equivalent of 2.5 million working days due to a lack of ‘potable water.

For much of humanity, the climate crisis manifests itself as a water crisis – worsening as bodies of water dry up, become flooded or polluted. WaterAid calls on world leaders to meet their $ 100 billion (€ 86.4 billion) climate pledge earlier than the postponed date of 2023, in order to deliver solutions.

Women and girls in the poorest countries are generally responsible for collecting water. With a lack of basic water services in rural areas, they have to walk more hours to support their families, leaving them little time to study or work.

For WaterAid CEO Tim Wainwright, “just filling a 20-liter water canister and walking two kilometers with it – which many women around the world do every day – and imagine[ing] what it is if it’s in your life ”would help others understand the depth of the problem.

Based on the WHO estimate that 50 liters of water are needed per person per day to meet basic drinking, cooking and washing needs, the association calculated that a woman in this position with a family of four spends five hours a day fetching water.

This represents 60 hours during the 12 days of COP26, or 20% of the summit. In total, basic water services could save women 77 million working days per year, charity finds.

As the global temperature rises, women in water-stressed countries must travel longer to access clean water, leaving them less time to adjust at home in what Wainwright calls ” a vicious circle “.

In Bangladesh, for example, rising sea levels have flooded coastal communities with salt water for years to drink, forcing people to go further and further.

Why financial flows are needed to solve the water crisis

Speaking to Euronews Green at COP26, Wainwright welcomed the presence of a “water pavilion” for the first time at the summit to discuss these issues. But more action is needed, he explains, action in the form of funding from both the public and private sectors.

A few weeks before the COP, the richest countries admitted that they would not reach the 100 billion dollars (86.4 billion euros) per year promised in 2009 before 2023, that is to say three years later. Only 80% have been delivered to date, latest data show, and about a quarter of that goes to helping communities adapt – a proportion that WaterAid says should be at least half.

Water programs receive less than 3 percent of all global finances tracked, according to the charity.

“Water is complicated,” Wainwright explains, “because although it is something that every individual needs, the interventions that are needed to secure water must involve the entire water supply system. “

This is partly due to the fact that cash cards cross national borders; protecting the entire ecosystem can be a conflicting process, even before water reaches the people, agriculture and industry who need it most.

What is the “resilient water accelerator”?

To “close the funding gap”, WaterAid is working with governments, businesses, banks and others to increase funding for countries most vulnerable to the climate. Entitled Resilient Water Accelerator, this coalition – launched by the United Kingdom prince charles by March 2021 – aims to reach 50 million people in water-stressed areas by 2030.

Blended finance is the way to achieve this, says Wainwright: An initial investment of $ 20 million (€ 17.3 billion) is expected to attract more money from the private sector, to the tune of $ 600 million (518 million euros) in the coming years. .

Six sites in Africa and South-East Asia are currently under consideration for projects bringing together water supply, sanitation and hygiene facilities, and integrating nature-based solutions.

Innovation in water stressed areas

Protecting water is a struggle that drives communities around the world, often weighed against the extractive interests of fossil fuel companies. Or loose regulation, as the ongoing battle against sewage in UK waterways shows.

Women lead this resistance on the front line and innovate in areas of water stress. In the drought-prone Indian state of Gujarat, women farmers are managing Bhungroo, a water management system that intelligently stores precipitation underground for use in times of drought.

As one of the most essential components of life, is it any wonder that clean water is so fiercely defended?

“Water is a central part of all the great religions of the world,” says Wainwright, “it’s a very important part of our spiritual lives, and the thought that someone doesn’t have it runs deep.

“That’s why I get up in the morning and come to work. I think this is important and I would call on everyone at COP26 to – yes, slow down climate change – but think about what is already happening in the poorest parts of the world. “

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