students and adults holding up hydroponic planter

Make every drop count

Students in a rural school near Gwembe learn about soilless cultivation, or hydroponics, in a greenhouse set up by the World Food Programme (WFP) in Zambia. It will come as no surprise that the most food-insecure people live in developing countries and in arid areas where little water is available – or too much water, of too poor a quality. Water is essential for food production, but decades of poor water management, misuse and pollution have degraded freshwater supplies and ecosystems. WFP helps to replenish water-depleted soils and aquifers through programmes that provide communities with water access and availability. These benefits also help to increase people’s food security, empowering them over the long term.

A boy gathers water from a puddle in the sand.

190 million children in 10 African countries are at the highest risk from a convergence of three water-related threats – inadequate water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); related diseases; and climate hazards – according to a new UNICEF analysis. Many of the worst-affected countries, particularly in the Sahel, are also facing instability and armed conflict, further aggravating children’s access to clean water and sanitation. Across the 10 hotspots, nearly one-third of children do not have access to at least basic water at home, and two-thirds do not have basic sanitation services.

Boy carries a water jug through rocky terrain

Water is the lifeblood of a healthy people and planet and is critical for economic growth, healthy ecosystems, and life itself. But with over 2.3 billion people without safe drinking water and 3.6 billion people lacking safe sanitation, a global water crisis currently threatens development. The global economic costs of water insecurity estimated at nearly $500 billion per year. As the world’s largest multilateral source of financing for water in developing countries, the World Bank Group is committed to innovative, inclusive, and sustainable water action towards a water-secure world.

Water is vital to us all, so everyone needs to act. Every drop counts and your actions, big or small, can make a difference.

This is the story of a drop of groundwater that passes from hand to hand around the world, and the difficulties water is facing today. 

A smiling girl draws water from a standpipe

In 2015 the world committed to ensuring access to water and sanitation for all by 2030.  But we are seriously off-track. Billions of people are being held back, because this promise is not fulfilled. World Water Day 2023 (22 March) is about accelerating change and encouraging individuals to “Be the change” through actions. This year, the observance coincides with the UN 2023 Water Conference (22-24 March, New York), a once-in-a-generation opportunity to unite the world around solving the water crisis by designing a Water Action Agenda for a rapid change in the remainder of this decade.

By nature, water connects different environments, peoples and sectors. But growing demands for water, coupled with poor water management, have increased water stress around the world. Meanwhile, the effects of worsening climate change are often felt through water, in the form of floods or droughts. Something has to change.

ILO brings us the story of Yasin Muhumad Faarah, an Ethiopian farmer, lost all his cattle in a recent drought. Without a regular supply of water, his future livelihood and that of other members of the community was in jeopardy. Together they built a water collection basin that promises a viable future for them all.

water in a dam

The General Assembly will hold the UN 2023 Water Conference from 22 to 24 March 2023 at the United Nations Headquarters in New York.  Water is everyone’s business.  See how you can engage and also follow the preparatory meeting on 25 October 2022.

A woman by a lake bends down to touch the water.

Indigenous peoples offer us valuable ways to address the global water crisis through their traditional practices, both in terms of the sustainable management of aquatic ecosystems and the democratic governance of safe drinking water and sanitation. In the worldviews of indigenous peoples, water belongs to everyone and should remain available to all, as a common good. Voicing their concerns, indigenous peoples pointed out numerous challenges on water rights they face that have undermined their access to clean water and proper sanitation, according to a new OHCHR report.

mountain river

The Wampís Nation protects the largest tropical forest in the world, and today, after decades of intense fighting to defend the land, they are leading a powerful effort to confront the water crisis by protecting the “flying rivers”. The Wampís Nation’s forests cover more than 1.3 million hectares within Peru, but through the flying rivers, they supply water for three countries. Flying rivers are caused by the sheer scale of evaporation and transpiration in the forests. The forests preserved by the Wampís Nation ensure water security for regions at risk of drought.

Several children filling up plastic containers with water from outside faucet

Consecutive years of below-average rainfall in the Horn of Africa have created one of the worst climate-related emergencies of the past 40 years. Over 20 million people, including 10 million children, in Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia will need water and food assistance in 2022. As severe malnutrition and the risk of water-borne disease collide, children could die in devastating numbers unless urgent support is provided. UNICEF is providing essential health, nutrition, education and child protection services to children and their families in dire need across the Horn of Africa.

A man opening a water pump in a field.

Water is one of the world’s most precious resources and access to clean water and safe, nutritious food is a basic human right. Water connects us all and is essential to everything we do. Water is also vital for agriculture, livestock and fisheries and key to food production, nutritional security and health. Yet, global water quality is deteriorating at an alarming rate, and land and water resources around the world are at a breaking point, according to FAO’s latest report, State of the World’s Land and Water Resources for Food and Agriculture.

illustration of water running through landscape

Our very existence depends on water. We all need water to drink and water to grow food. Water-related ecosystems also sustain livelihoods, food security and nutrition. However, freshwater is becoming increasingly scarce. Today, 3.2 billion people live in agricultural areas with high or very high water shortages or scarcity, of whom 1.2 billion people live in areas with very high water constraints. Ensuring more productive and sustainable use of freshwater and rainwater in agriculture, the world’s largest water user, is key to managing scarce water resources.