Water crisis for children, hunger in East Africa, new Yazidi memorial

A young girl sits outside her family tent in at a camp for internally displaced people in Mogadishu. © UNICEF/Mark Condren

#WaterCrisis; #EastAfrica; #YazidiMemorial

Some 739 million worldwide – or one in three – already live in areas exposed to high or very high water scarcity, with climate change threatening to push that alarming figure higher, according to a new UNICEF report.

The double burden of dwindling availability – and inadequate water for drinking and sanitation services – is compounding the challenge, putting children at even greater risk.

It provides an analysis of the impacts of three tiers of water security – water scarcity, water vulnerability, and what’s termed “water stress” (where demand outstrips surface and groundwater supply)

It also outlines the myriad ways in which children bear the brunt of the impacts of the climate crisis, including disease, air pollution, and extreme weather events such as floods and droughts.

From the moment of conception, child development is impacted by environmental stress factors, the agency said.

‘Uniquely vulnerable’

For example, children are more likely to suffer from air pollution than adults.

“The consequences of climate change are devastating for children,” said UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell. “Their bodies and minds are uniquely vulnerable to polluted air, poor nutrition and extreme heat.

“Not only is their world changing – with water sources drying up and terrifying weather events becoming stronger and more frequent – so too is their well-being as climate change affects their mental and physical health. Children are demanding change, but their needs are far too often relegated to the sidelines.”

According to the report, the largest number of youngsters are exposed in the Middle East and North Africa and South Asia regions – meaning they live in places with limited water resources and high levels of seasonal and interannual variability, ground water decline or drought risk.

East Africa: grim outlook for millions going hungry, warns WFP

In East Africa, conflict, high food prices and climate shocks continue to leave millions of people not knowing where their next meal will come from, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) warned on Monday.

The agency said that as of the end of September 62.6 million in the region were food insecure, with Ethiopia, Somalia, South Sudan and Sudan among the “most severe” global food crises.

All four countries have been experiencing either open conflict or heightened violence, pushing people to flee their homes. Over 18 million people in the region are displaced – including12 million within their countries and five million who have crossed international borders.

Inflation over 13%

High costs of food and of living persist in East Africa with inflation averaging 13.2 per cent.

WFP said that while official inflation rates for war-torn Sudan have not been issued since February, “they are expected to exceed 300 per cent by the end of the year”.

The UN agency stressed that the dire situation is likely to continue through early 2024.

The El Niño climate pattern is expected to bring above-normal rainfall through January, which can be a boon for farming; however, WFP warned that severe flooding in low-lying areas of Somalia, Ethiopia and Uganda may threaten crops and livestock, drive further displacement and fuel infectious disease outbreaks.

Iraq: UN migration agency welcomes new Yazidi Genocide Memorial

In Iraq, the UN migration agency IOM has hailed a new memorial in Sinjar province at a site where scores of Yazidi women were killed by terror group ISIL in 2014 as a “first step towards recovery”.

File photo from 2019 of Nadia Murad, Nobel Laureate and Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

UN Photo/Mark Garten File photo from 2019 of Nadia Murad, Nobel Laureate and Goodwill Ambassador for the Dignity of Survivors of Human Trafficking of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Built at the request of survivors by Nadia’s Initiative – an organization spearheaded by survivor and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Nadia Murad, together with IOM – the memorial pays homage to the resilience and courage of the Yazidis.

Over 3,000 were executed and buried in mass graves by ISIL, also known as Daesh, in what the UN has declared a genocide.

Ms. Murad, whose own mother was killed at the site, had donated part of her prize to purchase the land that the memorial stands on.

‘Survivors law’

IOM’s chief of mission in Iraq, Giorgi Gigauri, said that a crucial part of the recovery process was timely individual reparations and other transitional justice measures as outlined in the “Yazidi Survivors Law” adopted by the Iraqi parliament in 2021.

The UN agency worked closely with the Iraqi authorities to develop the law and has been supporting the application process for reparations. Over 1,140 applications have already been processed and nearly 900 verified survivors have begun receiving monthly salaries under the legislation.