Scientists believe that the specter of famine and reliance on outside help could soon threaten large parts of Africa. On present trends, they expect by 2025, one in three of the world's population will be affected by water shortages. The annual crop loss across Africa could be as much as the entire grain harvest produced by the US and India. The scientists, from the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), were speaking at the launch of the group's Challenge Program on Water and Food. The program is trying to find ways to improve the management of available water, and will work on technologies to increase crop yields while cutting the amount of water needed, says a BBC report.
Today, one person in five across the world has no access to safe drinking water, and one in two lacks safe sanitation. More than 30,000 children die before reaching their fifth birthday, killed either by hunger or by easily-preventable diseases. And adequate safe water is key to good health and a proper diet. In China, for example, it takes 1,000 tons of water to produce one ton of wheat.
A UN report says there are several reasons for the water crisis. One is the rise in population, and the desire for better living standards. The world's water crisis is so severe, it could take almost 30 years to eradicate hunger, the United Nations says. It believes the goal of halving the population of hungry people by 2015 may be unattainable. By 2020, the average water supply per person worldwide is expected to be a third smaller than now. The UN says political inaction and a lack of awareness are worsening the crisis. The warning comes from the World Water Assessment Program (WWAP), which combines the efforts of 23 UN agencies. It is based in the UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization). The program has prepared a report, Water for People, Water for Life, for the Third World Water Forum, to be held in the Japanese city of Kyoto in March 2003. The report's chapter on agriculture says about 25,000 people die daily from hunger, with an estimated 815 million people suffering from malnutrition. "Over the next 20 years, the average supply of water worldwide per person is expected to drop by a third".
The report says: "Globally the challenge lies in raising the political will to implement water-related commitments". "Attitude and behavior problems lie at the heart of the crisis, inertia at leadership level and a world population not fully aware of the scale of the problem. Financing the Millennium Development Goals will probably be one of the most important challenges that the international community will have to face over the next 15 years."