The number of people without reliable access to clean water has risen dramatically in the Horn of Africa, according to the UN’s children’s agency UNICEF, as the region experiences its worst drought in 40 years.
In Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia, the number of people suffering from water shortages has increased from 9.5 million to 16.2 million within five months, UNICEF said on Tuesday.
In the West and Central African Sahel countries of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Niger, and Nigeria, 40 million children are also at high risk of water shortages.
More than 2.8 million children suffer from severe acute malnutrition in both regions, UNICEF said.
These children are up to 11 times more likely to die from water-related diseases than well-nourished children, it said.
“When water either isn’t available or is unsafe, the risks to children multiply exponentially.
“Across the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, millions of children are just one disease away from catastrophe,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell.
As natural water sources dry up, UNICEF said there have been huge increases in the price of water.
Most people in the Horn of Africa rely on water delivered by vendors on trucks or donkey carts.
Affected areas of Kenya, for example, have seen prices rise by up to 400 per cent and parts of Somalia by up to 85 per cent, while water prices in parts of Ethiopia have doubled.
Water availability across the Sahel has also dropped by more than 40 per cent in the last 20 years due to climate change and complex factors such as conflict, UNICEF said.