HomeScience & TechDisparities in Access to Water Resources Threaten Global Prosperity: World Bank Report

Disparities in Access to Water Resources Threaten Global Prosperity: World Bank Report

Bali, Indonesia, May 20, 2024 – The latest World Bank report, “Water For Shared Prosperity,” unveiled at the 10th World Water Forum, underscores the critical role of water in human and economic development while highlighting significant disparities in access to water resources and services. The forum, hosted by the Government of Indonesia, is ongoing from May 18-25, 2024.

The report reveals that in 2022, 2.2 billion people lacked access to safely managed drinking water services, and 3.5 billion were without safely managed sanitation services. These disparities are particularly pronounced in low-income countries and rural areas. Since 2000, an additional 197 million people in low-income countries have lost access to safe drinking water. Rural areas are disproportionately affected, with eight out of ten people lacking at least basic drinking water and sanitation services.

The Democratic Republic of the Congo holds over half of Africa’s total water resources, yet hotspots in the Sahel, Southeastern Africa, South, and Central Asia are identified as the most water-stressed regions. The report delves into the disparities between high- and low-income countries and within countries, highlighting inequities faced by marginalized groups, including those defined by gender, location, ethnicity, race, political beliefs, and social identities.

Climate change exacerbates water-related risks, particularly in developing countries. Between 2000 and 2021, developing countries faced more severe droughts and longer-lasting floods compared to advanced economies. Over 800 million people globally are at high risk of drought, and twice that number live in flood-prone areas. These climate shocks impact nutrition, school attendance, and economic welfare.

The report identifies four interconnected components essential for prosperity: health and education (human capital), jobs and income, peace and social cohesion (social capital), and the environment (natural capital). Access to water services significantly impacts children’s education and long-term opportunities. Water is crucial for economic activities, particularly in developing countries where farming and fishing dominate. Water-intensive sectors constitute 56% of jobs in low-income countries versus 20% in high-income countries. In Sub-Saharan Africa, 62% of total employment is water-dependent, with low rainfall severely impacting GDP growth.

Effective and equitable management of water resources fosters community trust, inclusivity, and cooperation. However, mismanagement of water resources can exacerbate conflicts. Sustainable water management is essential for environmental health and long-term prosperity.

The World Bank report calls for urgent action to address these disparities and emphasizes that access to water is foundational for achieving shared prosperity. By focusing on sustainable and equitable water management, it is possible to enhance human capital, boost economic growth, and foster social cohesion, ultimately leading to global stability and prosperity.

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