Thandiwe Newton, Nadiya Hussain, Dougray Scott, Amanda Mealing, and Lemn Sissay support WaterAid’s call for clean water for people on the climate change frontlines

WaterAid is inviting the public to join celebrities, climate activists, and politicians in urging the UK Government to help vulnerable communities get a reliable source of water, so they can protect themselves from the destructive effects of climate change.  

Actors Thandiwe Newton, Dougray Scott, and Amanda Mealing, TV chefs Nadiya Hussain and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, author Lemn Sissay, Malian band Songhoy Blues, film director Shekhar Kapur, actor and director Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, tennis star Heather Watson, and climate activist Cel Spellman, are among those who have signed WaterAid’s open letter, which highlights the experiences of the world’s poorest people whose access to water is threatened by extreme weather.

They are joined in supporting the charity’s campaign, Our Climate Fight, by politicians Caroline Lucas MP, Chris Law MP, Layla Moran MP, and Baroness Chalker of Wallasey, who served as Minister of State for Overseas Development and Africa at the Foreign Office.

The public is invited to add their name to the fight for climate justice in the lead up to COP26, the UN’s global climate conference in Glasgow this November. WaterAid’s letter will be presented to Boris Johnson and Dominic Raab calling for a third of the UK’s committed international climate funding to be invested in locally-led adaptation projects. This will help people living on the frontlines of climate change adapt to extreme weather through disaster-resilient services that can, for example, withstand floods and drought.

One in ten people do not have clean water close to home, leaving people more susceptible to deadly diseases and having a damaging impact on education and livelihoods. Climate change is making it even harder for vulnerable communities to get clean water. Longer droughts dry up springs and wells, and more frequent flooding pollutes fragile water supplies with devastating consequences.

Only 5% of total global climate funding is spent helping countries adapt to the climate emergency, and much of that money is not invested in the communities most impacted by climate change.  Some of the most climate vulnerable countries receive only $1 per person per year for water yet protecting water and sanitation services from extreme weather is highly cost-effective.i For every $1 spent upgrading flood-resistant infrastructure, $62 is saved in flood restoration costs, as well as helping to prevent the contamination of water sources, which could save lives.

The open letter, written by WaterAid’s Basile Ouedraogo from Burkina Faso, features details of François Nikiema, 31, a father of three from Yargho in the West African country. Rising temperatures have contributed to the boreholes and wells in François’ village drying up. François says, “you have to juggle with the little water you have or simply give up certain needs due to lack of water”. His experience is a stark reminder that those who have done the least to cause the climate crisis, are the ones whose lives are most affected.  

Author, TV chef and WaterAid ambassador Nadiya Hussain MBE said:

“The changing climate is making it harder for some of the world’s poorest communities to get clean water, with countries like Bangladesh, where many of my family live, being particularly vulnerable to the devastating effects of extreme weather.    

“I’m supporting WaterAid’s campaign to highlight the harsh experiences faced by people living on the frontline of the climate crisis, and am joining the fight calling for action so they can remain resilient to whatever the future holds.  Please add your voice and help transform lives for generations to come.” 

Actor Dougray Scott (“Ripley’s Game”, “Enigma”, “My Week with Marilyn”) and WaterAid

ambassador said:

“We cannot ignore climate change; it’s already devastating lives and livelihoods around the world. It is making it harder for vulnerable communities to get the basics like clean water, and the huge injustice is that they’ve done the least to cause the crisis. “Everyone deserves a reliable supply of water that keeps flowing through flood, drought and natural disasters. I saw the difference it makes to people’s lives while visiting Mozambique with WaterAid; families are healthier, children have more time for school and their parents can earn a living, and women don’t have to put their safety at risk by trekking for hours to fetch dirty water.”   

TV chef, food writer, and broadcaster Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall said:

“Climate change affects us all, and we can all do something about it, from making small changes at home to calling on the government to take action. 

“I’m supporting WaterAid’s campaign to ensure families around the world have essentials like clean water, no matter what the future holds. With a reliable source of clean water, families can stay healthy, they can grow food to feed their families, and they can protect themselves from the effects of climate change.” 

Actor and WaterAid ambassador, Amanda Mealing (“Holby City”) said:

Having visited Ghana with WaterAid, I’ve seen what happens when communities lack basic essentials like clean water. It means women spend hours each day collecting water, that’s often so dirty it can make them and their families sick. And it means doctors and nurses have to take time away from treating patients to collect water while also making it more difficult to ensure a clean, hygienic environment. As the world continues to tackle the global pandemic while also facing the growing threat of climate change, it has never been more vital to ensure everyone everywhere has access to clean water, decent sanitation and good hygiene.”    

Tennis player, Heather Watson said:

“By joining Our Climate Fight, we can all help people around the world get access to the basic resources like clean water and decent sanitation, so they have the chance to fulfil their dreams.”

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje, film director and actor said: 

“Climate change is having a catastrophic effect on the world’s most vulnerable people, especially communities in the Global South, who are finding it more challenging to get essentials like clean water.

When I visited Ghana to see WaterAid’s work in schools and healthcare centres, I saw the positive difference clean water makes, it helps people bring in an income, stay disease free, and pursue an education.” 

Lemn Sissay OBE, poet and playwright said:

“If families have the basics like clean water, they can be more prepared for natural disasters, enabling them to bounce back quicker when they strike, so communities have the chance to thrive, no matter what the future holds.   

“That’s why I’m joining Our Climate Fight and supporting WaterAid’s call on the UK government to help get clean water to all and ensure efforts to tackle the effects of climate change are directed to the people who need it most.”  

Actor and broadcaster, Cel Spellman (‘Waterloo Road’, ‘Cold Feet’, ‘White Lines’), who appeared on WaterAid’s Future 15 climate activist list, said:

“One of the most heart-breaking, frustrating, and unjust things I find when it comes to climate change, is that it’s the vulnerable and marginalised people, and indigenous communities around the world who are suffering the brunt of our changing climate and feeling the worst of its devastating impacts. They’re on the front-line, even though they’ve contributed the least to it. More so they are usually the ones living most harmoniously with the natural world around them.  

“I, like us all, often find it hard to know just how we can help in the face of such a big crisis, that question that we all ask, ‘What can I do?’ But we can all help to make a difference to our future and lives around the world. If you can, please join me in supporting WaterAid’s fight to get clean water to all, whatever the climate brings.”

Shekhar Kapur, film director (“Elizabeth”, “Elizabeth: The Golden Age”) said:

“Water is life. Growing up in India, I witnessed hardships endured by communities denied access to clean water, and saw how people’s lives flourished when they could meet their basic needs. It is also a common resource that belongs to everyone, yet one in ten people still have to live without access to this essential. We can all play our part in helping address this injustice, which is becoming more urgent as climate change threatens water supplies.   

“I’m supporting WaterAid’s campaign as the voices of those blighted by the impacts of the climate crisis needs to be heard by those in power. In joining Our Climate Fight, you can help ensure that they’re not ignored.”  

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive, WaterAid, said: 

“For millions of vulnerable people across the world, the devastating impacts of climate change aren’t a probability; they’re already here. It is a crisis they didn’t cause, and it’s making it harder for them to get vital resources like clean water, trapping whole communities in poverty. Despite the pledges from rich nations to provide financial support, people in the world’s poorest countries receive as little as $1 per person per year for water services to help them cope with the effects of climate change, underlying why aid is so crucial.”

“Time and again the world has failed its poorest people; now is the time to turn the tide. As the UK prepares to host COP26, we are calling on the Government to seize this unique opportunity to lead the way in investing climate finance where it’s needed most, ensuring those living on the frontlines of climate change are not left behind. With a reliable supply of clean water, people can recover quicker from disasters and can stay healthy and thrive, whatever the future may bring.”

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