By Howard Hudson
Globally each day almost 1000 children under 5 die from diarrhea caused by contaminated water. More than 2.4 billion people – a third of all humanity – have no access to sanitation. And as populations grow, water is set to become a new source of danger, of conflict, given the rapid urban expansion of Latin America, Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia.
Meanwhile, as climate change accelerates, we are likely to see more extreme and frequent droughts, floods and typhoons. Again, people in emerging economies are likely to be the hardest hit by water-borne disasters.
To help national governments and the global community prepare and respond to these challenges, the United Nations University carries out research and training on numerous water-related issues. Using the latest evidence-based research, our institutes feed into policy planning worldwide. Essentially, we provide economic, political and social recommendations to help ensure human development, survival and welfare.
As of 2015, UNU has a total of 60 water projects, based out of institutes like UNU-INWEH in Canada, UNU-INRA in Ghana, and UNU-IAS in Japan, among several others. Of these 60 projects, 24 broadly focus on Asia, 16 on Africa, and eight on the Americas.
The guiding theme of World Water Week, 23-28 August 2015, is of crucial importance to UNU. The use of water for development is a key plank in two projects at UNU-MERIT: one focusing on India, the other on Kenya. The ‘FINISH’ and ‘FINISH-INK’ projects aim to improve not only sanitation but also regional economies: helping local engineers and entrepreneurs design, build and service modern toilets. Working with partners such as NGOs, government agencies and international organisations, including UNICEF, the scope is massive: a toilet is built by FINISH India every 3-4 minutes. The ultimate goal is to build half a million by 2016.
Yet water is just one piece of the puzzle for both development and the environment. Hence the ‘Nexus Approach’ designed by UNU-FLORES in Germany, which aims to encourage a more sustainable management of water, soil and waste, while working with partners like UNEP and UNESCO. The approach is based on the understanding that environmental resources are inextricably linked and therefore need to be governed in an integrated way.
See below for UNU’s latest policy brief on water-related issues by our sister institute UNU-FLORES. You are also invited to our session on ‘water storage and hydropower as drivers for sustainable development’, on Sunday 23 August, at 2pm, on the first day of the World Water Week 2015 meeting in Stockholm, Sweden.
Connect with us during World Water Week #UNU4Water !
This article was originally published at the UNU Merit website here: http://www.merit.unu.edu/water-for-development-world-water-week-2015/