A Somali woman in Garowe drawing water from one of the many man-made ponds dug through a UNDP-supported initiative to bring water to drought-affected communities. Photo: UNDP Somalia
With nearly half of the world’s workers employed in water-related sectors, sustainable access to safe water can change lives and livelihoods, the United Nations today said, underscoring the link between water and jobs, this year’s theme for World Water Day.
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noted that despite its paramount importance, water as a sector does not generally receive the attention it deserves.
“Water is central to human survival, the environment and the economy,” the Secretary-General said on the Day, an opportunity for everyone to learn more about water related issues, be inspired to tell others and take action to make a difference.
Mr. Ban pointed out in his message that people with the least access to water and sanitation often also lack access to health care and stable jobs, perpetuating the cycle of poverty.
“The basic provision of adequate water, sanitation and hygiene services at home, at school and in the workplace enables a robust economy by contributing to a healthy and productive population and workforce,” he said, expressing concern in gaps in accessing water and sanitation between men and women, cities and countryside, and the rich and the poor.
He called for bold action to address water inequality, as parts of effort to realize the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development whose Goal 6 aims to ensure availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all.
The importance of water in the job sector is marked with an official World Water Day event at the UN International Labour Organization (ILO) in Geneva, convened on behalf of the UN inter-agency mechanism on all freshwater-related issues, UN-Water.
In his video message, Guy Ryder, ILO Director-General and Chair of UN-Water, calls for “better water and better jobs.” He highlighted the situation of some 1.5 billion people who work in water-related sectors, many of whom are not recognized for the work they do, nor protected by basic labour rights.
Guy Ryder highlights the situation of the 1.5 billion people who work in water, many of whom are not recognized for the work they do, or protected by basic labour rights. Credit: ILO
As an example, he spoke about a woman from The Gambia who would spend much of her day fetching water, when she could have been working in the formal sector, had that water delivery been provided.
“Water is work,” Mr. Ryder said. “It requires workers for its safe and clean delivery, and at the same time, it can create and improve conditions of work.”
As part of the celebration, the UN today is launching the UN World Water Development Report, focused on the advancement of the prospect of decent work for all.
Among its findings, the report estimated that some 2 billion people require access to improved sanitation, particularly women and girls.
Meeting the challenge of creating and preserving decent jobs in the face of climate change and water scarcity will require far greater investments in science, technology and innovation, said Irina Bokova, the head the UN agency that leads water sciences and education—the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO).
In her message for the Day, Ms. Bokova called for Governments, civil society and the private sector to work together to promote “high-quality jobs, while preserving the environment and ensuring sustainable water management will help to eradicate poverty, promote growth and craft a future of decent work for all.”
To mark the Day, UNICEF kicked off its #ClimateChain Instagram campaign, highlighting the link between water, climate change and the environment. The campaign will run until 22 April, when the Paris Agreement will open for signature.
Sunday, 13 March 2016 12:42 Last Updated on Sunday, 13 March 2016 15:58
The storm system that hit the UAE and Northern Oman last week has now reached Pakistan and northern India where it has claimed the lives of at least 27 people.
Most people died when torrential rain accompanied by flashfloods hit several districts in the troubled southwestern province of Balochistan, Pakistan disaster management officials said.
Weather experts have warned however, that showers will continue for the next two days and the rain storm system could move across north-eastern parts of Afghanistan.
Local Pakistani authorities said at least 12 people have died and scores of others sustained injuries over the past two days in Chagai and Zhob districts of the province as the roofs of several homes caved in due to heavy rainfall and hailstorms.
Zahid Saleem, chief of the province’s disaster management authority, said four children and a woman were also killed in Sheerani district on Friday after the roof of a house collapsed.
Saleem added that one person also died after being struck by lightning in Dalbandin district while three people were also killed in two districts of Mastung and Loralai.
Video footage showed flood waters inundating homes in Chagai, Chaman, Loralai, Mastung, Pishin, Quetta, Taank, Zhob and other districts, with residents taking refuge on rooftops.
Local residents in affected areas have grabbed whatever they could salvage, and waded through knee-deep water in search of higher ground.
Meteorologists say more rain is expected to fall across northern Pakistan and far northwestern India through Monday, heightening the risk for flash flooding and mudslides.
The areas hardest hit will include Lahore and Islamabad in Pakistan and Punjab, Himachal Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in India.
Nearly 100mm of rain has already fallen around Islamabad on Friday and Saturday. In Khuzard in southern Pakistan, 73mm of rain has fallen since Tuesday.
According to a meteorologist for AccuWeather.com, Eric Leister, the threat of rainfall will be minimal in southern Pakistan and Afghanistan on Sunday but that a second storm approaching from the west will continue the threat for downpours and flooding in northern Pakistan, and northwestern India into Monday.
He states that a third storm will then target areas from northern Afghanistan into northern India with additional heavy rainfall during the middle and end of the coming week. Rainfall from this storm, in addition to the previous storms, could lead to widespread flooding throughout the region.
Pakistan is hit by severe weather patterns every year, which have affected millions of people, claimed hundreds of lives and wiped out millions of acres of farmland in recent years.
Monsoon, a rainy season that starts from mid-July and lasts till end of August, strikes Pakistan hard each year.
Torrential downpours and flooding killed 81 people and affected almost 300,000 Pakistanis across the country during the rainy season last summer.
In 2010, flooding also killed more than 1,200 people.
SAN FRANCISCO—This was supposed to be California’s year.
After three years of an unprecedented drought, a “Godzilla” El Niño formed in the western Pacific. Previous years with strong El Niños had been unusually wet, with the warm patch sending one wet system after another rolling into the region. California had essentially missed two years’ worth of precipitation. Surveying the wet season to come last fall, meteorologists said that El Niño was how it might restore the balance.
Now, six weeks remain in the state’s annual rainy season, and results are mixed. Rain is drenching the Bay Area this weekend, but California as a whole seems on track to have only an average precipitation year.
Of course, that might be a surprise to people here, watching the “Blade Runner”-esque deluge out their window. This weekend’s rain comes thanks to the formation of an “atmospheric river,” a tendril of moisture lapping up from the tropics. This weekend’s rain started in the Philippines and crossed a third of the planet before it struck the Bay Area:
For all this water, though, California will only see an average precipitation year.
“February was incredibly warm and dry,” says David Pierce, a researcher at Scripps Institute of Oceanography. “If you look at the curves of El Niño, February to April is when we see rainy years differentiate themselves. It’s already March. There’s another six weeks of wet season, then that’s all she wrote.”
Rain totals have differed throughout the state this year. While northern California has had a fine year, the Los Angeles basin still seems gripped by drought, Pierce said. This weekend’s rain will probably bring Bay Area totals back to normal.
But for the statewide drought—the one that shapes regional policy and local agricultural output—far more important than local rain totals are the status of the reservoirs. After the end of this pattern, Pierce said the manmade reservoirs could likely be at normal levels at last. Shasta Lake, an artificial reservoir near Redding, California, passed the 1,000-foot level on Saturday, the first time it had hit that mark since July 2013. The same lake looked like this by 2014:
Robert Galbraith / Reuters
And the most important reservoir is no lake, Pierce said, but the snowpack in the Sierra Nevada mountains. The Sierra snowpack functions as the state’s largest body of moisture. Moisture accumulates there through the winter before it’s slowly released through the dry spring and summer. The Sierra meltwaters irrigate the Central Valley—which produces 8 percent of all U.S. agricultural product—and also recharge the state’s artificial reservoirs.
The snowpack had been doing well before February hit. At the end of January, it sat at 110 percent of normal, which Pierce said was within the normal variation. By the end of the month, it fell to 80 percent. The major storm expected this weekend—two feet of snow are expected on peaks above 4,000 feet—could put the snowpack above normal again.
So if these rains don’t manage it, will the snowpack end the drought over time? It’s a funny question, said Pierce, because experts aren’t sure what a drought as massive as California’s will look like as it ends. They’re not even sure when they should say a drought is over.
Some argue that a drought should end when the state finally makes up its two years of missing rain—meaning a technical “drought” could stretch on even when precipitation is normal and reservoirs are full. Others say that, after a couple years of normal rain and steady reservoirs, the whole drought might be declared over—even if California never makes up those lost years. A third measurement—whether depleted groundwater should indicate a drought—would result in a far different timeframe. Pierce said that National Integrated Drought Information System is working to standardize state-specific definitions of drought across the country.
But regardless of where the line formally gets drawn, the drought’s effects will be felt here for years—in water-conservation policy, in lost crops and revenue, and as a harbinger of the new, climate-addled world to come.
At least 15 people have died in flooding and mudslides in and around Brazil’s largest city, Sao Paulo, officials said on Friday.
There were also reports of more people missing following the heavy rains that began late Thursday and continued Friday, but firefighters could not confirm exactly how many.
Sao Paulo firefighters said they had recovered the bodies of 15 people, all but two having been killed in mudslides in the outskirts of the Sao Paulo metropolitan area.
Traffic in Brazil’s economic hub was thrown into chaos, while the downpour closed the international airport for six hours overnight.
Humanitarian needs triple during record El Niño
08 February 2016, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. FAO’s irrigation and income diversification projects have become instrumental in tackling the negative impacts of El Niño- induced drought for pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in Afar Region.
7 March 2016, Rome – Timely agricultural assistance for the upcoming rainy season is essential to help the drought-affected people of Ethiopia, as one of the strongest El Niño events on record continues to have devastating effects on the lives and livelihoods of farmers and herders.
Humanitarian needs in Ethiopia have tripled since the beginning of 2015 as the drought has led to successive crop failures and widespread livestock deaths.
As a result, food insecurity and malnutrition rates are alarming in the Horn of Africa country, with some 10.2 million people now food insecure. One-quarter of all districts in Ethiopia are officially classified as facing a food security and nutrition crisis.
With planting for the country’s first rainy season, the belg, already delayed and the meher season – Ethiopia’s main agricultural campaign – fast approaching, farmers need immediate support to help them produce food between now and September for millions facing hunger.
“FAO urgently needs $13 million by the end of March to support more than 600,000 of the worst affected people,” said FAO country representative Amadou Allahoury Diallo.
“We’re expecting that needs will be particularly high during the next few weeks,” he added, “so it’s critical that we’re able to respond quickly and robustly to reboot agriculture now before the drought further decimates the food security and livelihoods of millions.”
The meher produces up to 85 percent of the nation’s food supplies.
Recent estimates by Ethiopia’s Bureau of Agriculture indicate that some 7.5 million farmers and herders need immediate agricultural support to produce staple crops like maize, sorghum, teff, wheat, and root crops, and livestock feed to keep their animals healthy and resume production.
Farming families have either exhausted seed reserves through successive failed plantings, or have consumed them as food.
Animal feed stocks are also depleted, and support is needed to enable families to produce fodder. Hundreds of thousands of livestock have already died and the animals that remain are becoming weaker and thinner due to poor grazing resources, feed shortages and limited water availability, leading to sharp declines in milk and meat production.
“It’s important to understand the current drought is not just a food crisis – it is above all a livelihood crisis,” said Allahoury Diallo, who highlighted that last year’s losses have severely diminished households’ food security and purchasing power and forced many to sell their last remaining agricultural assets.
Meeting immediate needs of farmers now is essential to longer-term recovery, as it helps farmers feed their country and keep their productive assets intact.
FAO’s call for $13 million by the end of March is part of the agency’s larger $50million appeal for its Ethiopia El Niño Response Plan. But currently less than 10 percent of the plan is funded.
FAO’s response to El Niño
As part of the emergency response, FAO is already providing planting materials to help seed- and food-insecure households in the worst-affected regions plant in the belg and meher seasons. But this support urgently needs to be scaled up.
In an effort to preserve livestock, FAO has been distributing nutrient blocks in pastoral and agropastoral areas meant to strengthen livestock and bolster the resilience of the cooperatives that produce them. FAO is also providing survival animal feed and support to help farmers produce fodder and improve access to water for livestock. Herds across the country have also benefited from vaccination and treatment campaigns to address their increasing vulnerability as a result of drought.
In Ethiopia’s Somali Region, FAO is enhancing the financial stability of drought-affected households through the purchase of weak sheep and goats for immediate, local slaughter – and providing the meat – rich in protein – to nutritionally vulnerable drought-affected families. The intervention will help reduce stress on available feed, enable households to focus their resources on their remaining productive animals, and invest in productive assets.
In addition, FAO is closely working with the government to conduct seasonal assessments and develop preparedness and response plans, along with guidelines for emergency agriculture support.