New Water Safety Planning Factsheet on Engaging Vulnerable Groups
IWA has published a new factsheet entitled “Engaging vulnerable groups in the implementation of Climate Resilient WSP”.
What are vulnerable groups?
Both vulnerable and marginalized groups have disadvantages that need to be considered in provision of safe water and accessible water supply. Those that are vulnerable, have a characteristic or trait which can increase their risk to harm or injury such as from contaminated water. In water safety planning, vulnerable groups can include children, the elderly and people living with chronic diseases. They have special needs that need to be considered. Marginalized people are those experiencing inequality, such that they may not be able to access water and sanitation services, due to poverty, tenure status, remote location or for reasons of discrimination. Such groups are not able to lead a comfortable life and lack developmental opportunities. Furthermore, they most often find it difficult to fully exercise their human rights including access to water and sanitation. These set of people are usually at a disadvantage and for this reason there is an urgent need to protect and pay special attention to their rights. Despite the divergence over the meaning of vulnerability, it can be considered as “the characteristics of a person or group and their situation that influences their capacity to anticipate, cope with, resist, and recover from the impact of a hazardous event. Such hazardous events can directly or indirectly affect the health status of the individual or population.
The impact of climate change on vulnerable groups
Climate change and extreme weather conditions can impact anyone, but in a world where almost a billion people lack access to safe drinking water, and 2.5 billion do not have access to sanitation, climate change is expected to bring about major impacts through water supplies. This can have devastating impacts on vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, the disabled, the poor and women. Climate-related events such as intense rainfall, severe storms, dry spells, extremely hot days and storm surges can damage or destroy water supply infrastructure. This is expected to cause stress on the available water resources bringing about water scarcity. The scarcity may result in increased competition for water use between for example domestic, agricultural, and industrial sectors. In such events, the physical accessibility of water sources is affected, and this can deprive the basic needs of marginalized groups, especially women, children, persons with disabilities, and the elderly. Again, water scarcity associated with climate-related events also causes a shift to alternative sources that may likely be
polluted with sediments, pathogens and pesticides, which impact the health of the vulnerable population. The population therefore becomes more susceptible to health effects associated with the pollution of water sources by virtue of their pre-existing health condition, age or residing in areas that do not promote good health.
Lastly, climate change impacts indirectly on the affordability of water services mainly because of reconstruction of infrastructure destroyed during floods. The increased demand and competition over water as well results in increased prices thus getting out of reach for the extremely poor people.
You can find the full publication here under the WSP resources, or below this article.