Water-related problems and solutions were at the forefront of UNICEF’s executive director’s address to the Annual Session 2021.
Water racked up 16 mentions during Henrietta Fore's June remarks, with particular emphasis on the importance of access to WASH services in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Referring to UNICEF’s response to the pandemic, Fore noted that, in collaboration with UN agencies, NGOs and public and private partners, the organisation supplied 106 million people with WASH services and supplies across 153 different countries.
She went on to highlight the “Water Security for All” plan – a recently launched flagship initiative centred around key SDGs which aims to “provide safe and affordable drinking water, climate resilient WASH services, early action to prevent water scarcity crises, and water co-operation for peace and stability”.
Prior to COVID-19, countries were already falling behind in meeting SDGs, according to Fore. However, she pointed to progress through innovation, commending the use of local solar-powered water systems. And stressing the importance of digital transformations in providing new methods of delivering support, Fore cited the use of satellite data to identify water bodies and water levels in Somalia.
Referencing gender inequalities associated with climate change, Fore's address outlined how women are disproportionately affected by gender expectations when it comes to securing water and food for their families, adding that water scarcity and dwindling access to natural resources are exposing women to potential violence and exploitation.
UNICEF's Gender Action Plan provides girls and women with greater opportunities “by working within communities to end discriminatory practices and outdated views about what girls and women 'should' do, while chipping away at the root causes of gender inequality,” said Fore.
Photo credit: UNICEF