UN Highlights Water Scarcity as Conflict Catalyst in Africa

UN Highlights Water Scarcity as Conflict Catalyst in Africa
Creator: Irada Humbatova | Credit: REUTERS

UN Highlights Water Scarcity as Conflict Catalyst in Africa

The United Nations has issued a warning regarding water scarcity in Africa, stating that it heightens the likelihood of inter-country conflicts. According to the latest World Water Development Report released by UNESCO, 19 out of 22 African countries surveyed suffer from water scarcity, a condition that significantly elevates the risk of disputes and tensions.

One prominent example cited in the report is the ongoing dispute between Egypt, Ethiopia, and Sudan concerning the potential impact of a massive dam on freshwater availability. This illustrates how water scarcity can exacerbate tensions and lead to conflicts between nations.

The chief editor of the report, Richard Connor, emphasized that much of sub-Saharan Africa faces economic water scarcity, characterized not only by limited water resources but also by inadequate infrastructure, management, and economic resources to address the issue effectively. Factors such as population growth, urbanization, economic development, and changing consumption patterns contribute to increasing water demand across the region.

Droughts emerge as a major cause of water scarcity, affecting various parts of Africa and exacerbated by climate change, which is projected to intensify the frequency and severity of droughts in the future. A report from the UN Convention to Combat Desertification in 2022 revealed that Africa has been disproportionately impacted by drought, with over 300 drought events recorded in the past century, accounting for 44% of the global total.

Complicating matters further, two-thirds of Africa’s freshwater resources flow across national borders. Despite this, the report highlights a lack of cooperation between countries in managing shared water resources. Out of the 106 transboundary aquifers mapped in Africa, only seven have formalized interstate cooperation agreements.

Addressing water scarcity and fostering cooperation among African nations are critical imperatives to mitigate the risk of conflicts stemming from water-related issues. The UN report underscores the urgent need for collaborative efforts, improved infrastructure, effective management strategies, and greater investment to ensure sustainable water access and security across the continent.

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