WaterAid creates giant sand portrait on Whitby Beach to show how climate change threatens water access for world’s poorest

WaterAid created a striking portrait in the sand on Whitby Beach this week showing a child carrying water on dry, cracked ground next to the rising tide, to highlight the impact climate change is having on people’s access to water.

Extreme weather such as droughts dry up water sources like springs and wells, while rising sea levels and flooding contaminate poorly protected water supplies, with potentially devastating consequences.

It is making life harder for the 785 million people already living without clean water close to home and struggling to meet their basic needs. By 2040, the situation is predicted to be even worse with climate change making water perilously scarce for 600 million children – that’s 1 in 4, and an increase of 20 per cent since 2010.

Having a reliable source of water means families can protect themselves from the impacts of climate change.

WaterAid’s 60-metre wide artwork was supported by players of People’s Postcode Lottery, ahead of World Water Day on 22 March, as a stark reminder that climate change is happening and those who have done least to cause it are feeling its effects first and most severely.

It took artists from Sand in Your Eye four hours to create the portrait of 12-year-old Ansha from Frat in Ethiopia, who spends hours each day collecting dirty water from a river. After only an hour on Whitby Beach, Ansha’s image was washed away by the rising tide – highlighting how excess rainfall and rising sea levels can lead to flooding, contaminating water and endangering lives.

On 31 March, the UK government will host a virtual Climate and Development event to build momentum towards this year’s UN Climate Change Conference in Glasgow (COP26). WaterAid is calling on the UK government to ensure that at least one third of its committed international climate finance is channelled to locally-led adaptation projects that meet the needs of communities impacted by climate change.

Author, TV chef and WaterAid ambassador Nadiya Hussain MBE is supporting the charity’s call to support families at the forefront of climate change so they have a reliable source of clean water, building security for the future.

Nadiya Hussain said:

“WaterAid’s sand portrait is a poignant reminder that climate change is already affecting families around the world. It’s a terrible injustice that millions of children’s lives are threatened because of a lack of clean water, and that climate change is making the situation even harder for those in the world’s poorest places who have done the least to cause it.

“Every child should be able to grow up free from the burden of collecting water so dirty it could make them sick. That’s why I’m supporting WaterAid’s work to help bring clean water to families across the world, enabling them to break the cycle of poverty and protect their children from disease, helping them reach their potential and fulfil their dreams, whatever the future holds.”

WaterAid has released a new report, Turn the tide: The state of the world’s water 2021, highlighting the devastating impact climate change is having on water and how this is disproportionately affecting the world’s poorest people.

Tim Wainwright, Chief Executive for WaterAid, said:

“The thought-provoking portrait of Ansha will be swept away by the rising tide but we cannot allow the same to happen to the futures of the vulnerable communities impacted now by climate change. 

“Unless you know that you will be able to get clean water each and every day, the rest of life is a struggle and a drudgery. For many people in the world getting clean water has been made more difficult by climate change, but if they had just a simple tap or pump that always worked then they would be protected by the impact of climate change.

“Time is running out to crack the climate crisis however and change needs to come from the top too. We want to see leadership from the British Government in making sure that sufficient resources are put into making sure that everyone everywhere has clean water now and forever.” 

Players of People’s Postcode Lottery have supported WaterAid’s work since 2013, helping bring clean water, decent toilets and good hygiene to millions across the world. In 2021, their support will help communities in countries such as Ethiopia and Bangladesh who are already facing the impacts of climate change on their water supplies.

Find out more about WaterAid’s work: www.wateraid.org

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